1998 – what a year to be born as a federation! It was the year of “the big ice storm” in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. Google was founded and Sesame Street turned 30. It was the year Swissair flight 111 crashed off Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. Air Canada pilots went on strike for the first time in the company’s history. The Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup and the New York Yankees won the World Series. Bill Clinton was president of the USA. Jean Chrétien was the prime minister of Canada and Joe Clarke had been elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada again. Mike Harris was premier of Ontario. This was the world as we knew it when the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) began.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario was created by the amalgamation of two predecessor organizations, the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario (FWTAO) and the Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation (OPSTF). When ETFO began on July 1, 1998, it continued the work of two federations that had worked to promote and protect the interests of public school educators for 80 years.

In 2012, as a part of a member education campaign ETFO produced a video which describes the history of the organization and the gains the union has made for its members.

Mike Harris Restructuring of Education

1998 was a time of massive change in Ontario education. The provincial government forced Ontario’s 129 school boards to merge into 72, 31 of them public boards. Some of these new boards were huge, covering, in one instance, an area the size of France.

New funding arrangements meant boards could no longer raise money from their local tax base. Teachers were brought under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Occasional teachers became members of teacher federations but principals and vice-principals were removed. Thousands of veteran teachers and administrators took advantage of a new opportunity – the 85 factor – to retire early. Added to this was a new curriculum (with no resources for implementation), new report cards (with none of the technical support needed to produce them), and the threat of ongoing teacher testing.

These were not ideal conditions in which to launch a new federation but elementary teachers proved once again they were up to the challenge.
This was something that would be seen time and again throughout the years.

Voluntary Extracurricular Activities

The Education Act increased the course load of secondary teachers and, as a result, many refused to volunteer for extra-curricular activities. Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act, made extra-curricular activities mandatory anytime, any place, and any day in the school year for both elementary and secondary teachers. It also denied teachers the right to bargain conditions around extra-curricular activities.

ETFO fought back. With our partners in the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, ETFO explored a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to the bill and a complaint to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

ETFO consulted its membership. Over 99 percent agreed Bill 74 represented an unwarranted intrusion into their professional role and was a direct attack on collective bargaining rights. With this strong mandate ETFO advised teachers not to take on extra-curricular activities during the 2000-2001 school year.

Keeping extra-curricular activities voluntary became one of ETFO’s bargaining goals. ETFO’s public relations campaign, No More Bullying, included radio spots, newspaper ads, and a special website that allowed members to fax their MPPs and put on the record their opposition to both Bill 74 and the recertification scheme. At the height of the campaign, the website attracted over 1,000 visitors a day, more than five times the normal traffic.

Teachers won. On June 12, the Minister announced she would not proclaim the part of Bill 74 that dealt with extra-curricular activities and, in the future, would deal separately with the elementary and secondary panels.

Expanding our Ties with Organized Labour

That summer, delegates to the 2000 Annual Meeting voted overwhelmingly to join the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), making ETFO the largest teachers’ organization in the country affiliated with the labour movement. ETFO recognized that participation in the labour movement would give the federation added power to advance the cause of public education, high-quality public services, and the rights of workers.

Capitalizing on the success of the ETFO media campaigns, delegates also voted to establish a provincial political action/public relations fund to support activities to reclaim the education agenda, forge alliances with parents and the public, and protect and improve the working conditions of teachers and the learning conditions of students.


On June 12, 2001, under the guise of improving education and ensuring teacher competency, the government finally unveiled its teacher recertification plan. Bill 80, the Stability and Excellence in Education Act, 2001, required members of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to participate in a five-year recertification cycle during which they would have to successfully complete 14 professional development courses. The prescribed set of courses gave teachers little flexibility. It did not take into account students’ learning needs, teachers’ own professional development goals, or what stage they were at in their careers.

The OCT would administer this Professional Learning Plan (PLP) and would randomly select the first cohort of 40,000 practicing teachers who would start their five-year cycle in September 2001. Those remaining would start the following year.

Fighting recertification was a challenge for teachers because many members of the public believed it would create greater accountability.

ETFO had to show that this was a myth. Teachers were taking part in professional development; accountability mechanisms such as performance appraisal were already in place; and the Federation had a credible alternative plan. ETFO needed to educate members to ensure their support for strong and united action, and also win the support of parents and politicians.

ETFO’s campaign – Accountability YES/Recertification NO – was a call to members to boycott the PLP plan while continuing to engage in and document their professional growth activities. It continued for three years and involved every service area, provincial and local leaders, and each individual member.
The campaign was a prime example of a multi-pronged approach to defeat a government initiative: legal action, data gathering to put an elementary face on the issue, swift consultation with members to get their support for action, partnerships with other stakeholders to strengthen the opposition, a media campaign that told the real story behind the legislation, and extensive public and private lobbying with government representatives.

The results were outstanding. Fewer than 14 percent of teachers complied with the PLP. But the government didn’t budge. It was clear that winning this fight would require a change of government.

Underfunding of Education

Teacher federations, school boards, and parents all criticize government underfunding of education. In the spring of 2002, the government appointed Mordechai Rozanski to head the Education Equality Task Force to review the funding model. ETFO told the Task Force what members had said: class sizes were too large and supports too few; specialist teachers and programs were lost; special education was in crisis; workloads had increased; and the difference in per capita funding for elementary and secondary students was not only unfair but illogical.

The Task Force reported in December and confirmed that public education in Ontario needed an infusion of $2 billion. The government quickly announced more funding for salary benchmarks, somewhat easing the 2002-2003 collective agreement negotiations.

Despite the extra money, boards were still under extreme financial pressure. Three public boards – Ottawa-Carleton, Hamilton-Wentworth, and Toronto – refused to make the spending cuts required to achieve balanced budgets. The government response was swift and brutal; they stripped these boards of their powers and appointed supervisors to oversee them.

In the spring ETFO launched Fair Funding for Public Education with a full public relations campaign based on the message Restore funding. Restore programs. Restore democracy. The specific plea to the public was Help us help your kids. Though Toronto, Hamilton-Wentworth, and Ottawa-Carleton were targeted, the campaign rolled out across the province prior to the anticipated provincial election.

Heeding the Members' Voices...

From its inception ETFO reached out to members, checking on their attitudes to and their knowledge of their union. Did they read ETFO publications? Were they satisfied with ETFO programs? The responses were overwhelmingly positive.

For several years ETFO also gathered information through school-based surveys completed by ETFO stewards. These responses told the real story of the impact of funding cuts – bigger classes, heavier workloads, more paperwork, fewer programs, and crumbling schools.

At the same time, ETFO professional relations staff detected some alarming new trends – more teachers under review; more stress-related LTD claims; increased workloads due to the loss of administrators, support personnel, and specialist teachers; lack of supply teachers to cover absences; inadequate training and supports for teachers in new positions.

ETFO distributed this information widely. More importantly, however, the Federation was able to develop strategies to address the issues members identified.

Long-term Campaign: Defeat the Harris/Eves Tories and Restore Balance in Education

For four years ETFO worked with its locals, parents, the public, and opposition parties to make education a major focus of the next election campaign. Both the Liberals and the NDP gave ETFO written commitments that they would rescind the recertification legislation and reform the OCT to make it a truly self-governing body. Both parties adopted the ETFO class size policy.

All ETFO collective agreements were due to expire on August 31, 2004, creating both challenges and opportunities for the organization. Workload was a major issue – teachers were seeking improvements and boards wanted to strip workload provisions from agreements.

The funding formula was also a problem. Although the Education Act provided for an average of 200 minutes of preparation time for elementary teachers, the formula only funded 137 minutes. There were no provisions for special programs, lunchroom supervisors, or other supports necessary to run an effective school.
All of these factors converged to lead to the launch of Building for Tomorrow.

Delegates to the 2003 Annual Meeting approved a multi-year initiative to enhance bargaining and revitalize the organization. Building for Tomorrow included hiring additional bargaining staff; additional training for local negotiating teams, stewards, and members; a public relations campaign; and putting in place enhanced technology to support bargaining.

When the Liberal party won the October 2 election it promised to bring peace and stability to the education system. It pledged to treat teachers with respect, to form a genuine partnership with education groups, to inject more money into the system, to do away with the PLP, to make the OCT truly self-governing, and to reduce primary class size.

During its first five years ETFO proved that it could advance and protect the interests of members, negotiate sound collective agreements, mobilize against regressive legislation, provide professional development, train new leaders, advance social justice, partner with other unions and education stakeholders, and win the support of parents and the public. And it did all this in the face of a hostile government.

Now ETFO would demonstrate that it could work co-operatively with government while maintaining an unwavering commitment to its members and the issues that mattered to them.

Campaign 200 – Planning Today, Building for Tomorrow
The first public manifestation of ETFO’s multi-year plan was unveiled in February 2004. With a government committed to reducing the size of primary classes, ETFO could concentrate on other member issues. Its bargaining priorities for teachers and ESP/PSP members were 200 minutes of preparation time, a cap on supervision time, real salary increases, and improved leave and benefit plans. The demand for increased preparation time addressed workload issues but it also meant more programs and more specialist teachers.
Occasional teachers’ bargaining priorities included ensuring the occasional teacher got the same timetable as the teacher being replaced and improved daily rates of pay. On June 2, all ETFO locals signed takeover agreements making the provincial organization their bargaining agent. Bargaining began in earnest in the fall of 2004. During the winter teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike to back their bargaining demands.

ETFO’s bargaining goals had a hefty price tag and paying for them would require a funding commitment from the province. ETFO took advantage of the Minister’s invitation to teacher unions to explore the feasibility of establishing a provincial framework for negotiations. For four months the Federation worked with the minister and with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association to develop a provincial framework for salary, preparation time, and supervision time. Agreement was reached in April. The four-year accord included 200 minutes of preparation time by 2008, caps on supervision time, and a 10.6 percent salary increase. The government would fund the framework. Negotiations on the framework and on local issues proceeded with each district school board.

ETFO paved the way for a unique form of bargaining. It secured funding from the province for common issues but negotiated local issues and the application of the framework with individual school boards. By the end of June, all teacher locals had successfully negotiated new collective agreements.

Occasional teacher bargaining followed. Occasional teacher leaders received training and another public relations campaign was unveiled to support bargaining – There Is No Substitute for a Substitute Teacher.

By the end of the year all occasional teacher locals had collective agreements that included the bargaining demands: timetable of the teacher being replaced and gains in their daily rate, some in excess of 25 percent, closing the gap between the highest and lowest rate significantly. In May the Near North Occasional Teacher Local staged a three-week strike before it was able to successfully conclude an agreement.

Close the Gap

ETFO's next campaign was Close the Gap. Although the gap had shrunk somewhat from the $1318 it was when the Liberals took power in 2003, the gap still amounted to $711 per pupil. Imagine the impact on elementary schools given the fact that there are 1.4 million elementary students in Ontario - the shortfall in funding was just short of 1 billion dollars.[1] ETFO tried to address the $711 funding gap through Provincial discussions but when those talks failed they turned to local bargaining.

During the 2007 - 2008 federation year ETFO launched a significant partnership with the African nation of Benin. In March, a delegation of high level educators from Benin in West Africa spent a week in Toronto as they prepared to redevelop their early years curriculum. Through Right to Play ETFO staff engaged delegates from the Benin Ministry of Education, the Benin Teacher Union, the Early Childhood field, and Right To Play Benin in three days of reflective activities that culminated in a detailed action plan that would form the basis of their curriculum revisions. ETFO continues this work as the country works at transforming their education system with direct assistance from ETFO staff and Right to Play.

Health and Safety

While many people assume that schools are especially safe places to work, this is a myth the Union has successfully challenged during this same time. A renewed awareness among ETFO members of the dangers in their work environments drove litigation, grievances, Ministry of Labour inspections, and public relations campaigns.

After a protracted battle, ETFO successfully resolved a health and safety complaint in late 2007 over mould in Lambton-Kent schools – a case that received national press coverage. As well, the Union continued to support members who were subjected to violence in the workplace, and to exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials.

In November, the Union held its first ever province-wide health and safety conference, at which the new edition of Take Every Precaution Reasonable, ETFO’s health and safety guide for members, was launched. In addition, seven regional conferences were held to assist women members to become certified in health and safety.

These steps marked a turning point for ETFO and the union quickly took a leadership role in Health and Safety within the education sector.

Occupational Health and Safety is a guaranteed right under the Canadian Labour Code. For further information, please visit:

The Second 4 Year Collective Agreement

The fall of 2009 saw a significant organization focus on collective bargaining. It was a time of considerable drama that saw, in far too many locals, questionable tactics on the management side. It was a year in which the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, with the complicity of the Ministry of Education, tried but failed to strip teacher collective agreements of existing rights. Specifically, since the last round of bargaining boards had been eager to gain greater control over teacher preparation time, to impose larger amounts of supervision time, to wrest professional autonomy away from ETFO members, and to overturn arbitration awards that have upheld members’ rights.

In late November, ETFO was approached by the Minister to resume talks with OPSBA, with the November 30 deadline extended to December 5. It was during those discussions that ETFO tabled a proposal, which redirected some of the government’s financial commitment enshrined in other framework agreements to create 1,500 additional teacher positions beyond the increased jobs created in other framework agreements. OPSBA refused to consider the ETFO proposal, and countered with a new proposal which while containing monetary enhancements, would also have enacted significant contract strips.

In February, the Minister tabled a ‘take it or leave it’ framework proposal with reduced salary increase (2 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent, 3 percent as opposed to 3/3/3/3) but no contract strips. A special Presidents’ meeting was convened and subsequent to the input of the Presidents, the Executive voted unanimously to accept this Provincial Discussion Table Agreement (PDTA). The PDTA included a deadline of March 31st, later extended to April 24th, for all teacher and occasional teacher locals to negotiate collective agreements.

As always, much was taking place within the organization in addition to member advancement and protection. In particular was the lobby effort related to the Full Day Kindergarten Initiative, which was promised by the Liberals during the 2008 election campaign. Following the broad distribution of the ETFO position paper and pamphlet on full-day kindergarten within the education community and at Queen’s Park, the federation developed a DVD that highlights the importance of a play-based kindergarten program and of staffing the programs with qualified teachers. The resource was distributed to MPPs, education stakeholder organizations, school boards, and schools and posted on the ETFO website. Locals and teacher representatives on school councils were asked to use the resources to communicate to members, parents, and the broader public. President David Clegg promoted the federation’s policies at policy forums and through the media.

Full Day Early Learning

Dr. Pascal released his report on June 15, 2009. The report contains a number of positive proposals for a new vision of delivering children’s services. However, the proposed staffing model which called for the major involvement of early childhood educator (ECE) staff and a diminished role for teachers, will not provide the high-quality full-day kindergarten learning experience that Premier McGuinty promised and that parents expect for their children. ETFO did not support this staffing model and continued to lobby the government regarding the importance of including a qualified teacher throughout the school day in any future full-day program for four- and five-year olds.

The decision the government made in October 2009 to have a full-time teacher in the Early Learning Program classroom for a full day was a very significant victory for ETFO. As a result of our comprehensive discussions with government, the supporting legislation – Bill 242, the Full-day Learning Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010 – confirmed that teachers will not be required to take an additional qualification course, before and after school programs are not called classes, and principals cannot delegate responsibility for them to teachers.

DECE Organizing Campaign

When the early learning program staffing model was announced the ETFO Executive made the decision that the organization should organize DECE locals. This was a bold step for ETFO - while the organization had always represented non-teachers the numbers were small. The organization devoted staff and resources to the campaign and was successful in organizing ten designated early childhood educator (DECE) employee groups. These groups were in Durham, Grand Erie, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Rainbow, Simcoe County, Toronto, Trillium Lakelands, and Waterloo.

Membership in the same union has many advantages both for teachers and for ECEs. It facilitates team building, professional learning, and quicker problem solving and conflict resolution. DECE locals in ETFO have an equal voice in shaping ETFO policy and programs by attendance at Representative Council and at the annual meeting. They have equal access to ETFO services and our award-winning professional learning and leadership development programs.

Online AQ Program

ETFO has always been known for the quality of its professional learning programs. In September 2009 the Provincial Executive approved a plan to develop and implement online AQ courses. While ETFO was already a provider of face-to-face AQ courses this new format would allow us to deliver the ETFO Edge to all teachers in Ontario. A staff implementation team worked hard to meet 2010 summer launch of 21 online AQs. The plan was for 500 participants but more than 1500 signed up! Because of the quality program ETFO went from being one of the smaller AQ providers to being one of the largest in less than a year.

Because ETFO offered the courses for $650 the faculties of education were forced to lower their prices by as much as $500 in order to compete with ETFO. This unintended consequence of the ETFO program resulted in easier access to professional learning for all teachers!

The New ETFO Home

An important ceremony was held in the spring of 2011 - the ground breaking ceremony for the new ETFO Office. Located at the corner of Isabella and Huntley Streets, ETFO’s new home is green, beautiful, and cost efficient with the building designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - is an internationally recognized benchmark for green building construction and operation. LEED certification recognizes that a building has been constructed to, and will be operated on, high environmental standards.

The ETFO Office - May 2013

Control Your Future

In February 2012, the government invited ETFO to the Provincial Discussion Table (PDT), a voluntary process that in past bargaining periods had achieved some improvements for both our members and students. During the first meeting, it became clear that the government wasn’t actually prepared to discuss anything. Instead, the three private-sector bankruptcy lawyers heading the government side of the discussion presented a series of demands. The meeting, and the process, defied every principle of fair and respectful collaboration.


The government’s demands included:
  • 0% salary increases in both years of a two-year collective agreement (2012–2014).
  • Retirement gratuities frozen at the maximum sick leave payout.
  • Elimination of sick days accumulated beyond the gratuity payout level.
  • Annual sick leave reduced to six days per year at 100% and then 66.66% pay for 24 weeks. (This was later increased to ten days.)
  • The salary grid frozen for two years, with no ability to advance on the grid based on either experience or qualifications.
  • A restructuring of the salary grid for the 2014 year and beyond.

The impact of these demands on ETFO members was significant. For example, for a beginning teacher a freeze on the salary grid would mean a loss of more than $18,000 over the 2012–2014 collective agreement. This loss will compound over time and never be restored. The sick day reduction means that a teacher would actually lose 50% of their annual sick leave days, which is very significant both in our day-to-day work with students and if a teacher develops a major illness.

Immediately following the initial discussions with the government team, ETFO proposed to the government a fair process for further discussions, one headed by people knowledgeable about publicly funded education, with clear ground rules, and where issues brought forward by both parties could be addressed. Unfortunately, the government team would not agree to our proposal. At that point, the ETFO Executive made the decision to not return to the discussion table. ETFO decided that it was in the best interests of our members to bargain, as we have in the past and as the law provides, board by board under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

On June 1, all ETFO locals moved into provincial takeover and notice was served to all local boards of the intent to bargain.

The 2013-2014 school year was a year of upheaval as a result of the heavy handed approach by the Provincial Government. For more on this struggle click here.

The Bill 115 Struggle

In a year when governments, pro-business ideologues, and corporate interests did everything within their power to undermine unions and collective bargaining processes, ETFO members accomplished something very remarkable.

Through their collective action, ETFO’s 76,000 members became the front line in defending democratic rights for working people in Ontario. Our push-back against Bill 115 caused the Ontario government to rethink its systematic assault on public sector workers; and it sent a warning signal to other provincial governments entering into collective bargaining with educators.

ETFO members displayed incredible solidarity in the face of Bill 115, one of the most regressive and draconian pieces of legislation ever tabled in Canada. The solidarity showed during the fall of 2012 when members of every ETFO local delivered an overwhelming mandate for strike action, registering the highest strike vote percentages in ETFO’s history. It showed in early December when 92% of voting members cast a ballot in favour of a one-day political protest should Bill 115 be enacted. And it showed in the continuing “pause” on voluntary extra-curricular activities taken by a majority of members throughout the year.

The results of these actions had a resounding effect on government policy and public opinion.

In September, the McGuinty government lost a key by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo and the chance for a majority government, in no small part due to the work of educators who supported the winning NDP candidate. The Liberal Party, which had created an education crisis and introduced Bill 115 in part to win public support leading up to that by-election, ran a distant third.

Shortly after ETFO and three other education unions launched Bill 115 Charter challenges in October, McGuinty prorogued the legislature. Along with the prorogue, the chill of the Charter challenges helped end government plans to table a bill which would have imposed an across-the-board wage freeze on all public sector workers in Ontario.

With their participation in rotating strikes, community organizing, lobbying, and protests at MPP offices, ETFO locals and members clearly and passionately demonstrated their opposition to the government and its attack on educators. By December, a Forum Research survey showed that almost half of Ontarians supported ETFO members in the Bill 115 dispute, compared to a third who supported the government.

The continuing pressure by members around voluntary extra-curriculars forced the government to repeal Bill 115 in January. The repeal was important given that the government could have extended the bill’s imposed agreements to three years instead of two. This was no longer an option following Bill 115’s repeal.

There is also no doubt that the actions of thousands of ETFO members outside the provincial Liberal leadership convention in January had an impact. The very vocal protests, which could be heard inside the convention hall over two days, reminded delegates that they needed a premier who would fix the chaos in education that Premier McGuinty and Education Minister Laurel Broten had wrought.

The stand that ETFO members took for fair bargaining processes reverberated across the country. There is a strong perception that the efforts of Ontario teachers had an impact on how other provincial governments conducted negotiations with their education sectors. There appeared to be a marked reluctance in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Alberta to impose contract strips and legislated agreements, and instead, negotiate in good faith.

Improvements over Bill 115

While a more conciliatory government under Premier Kathleen Wynne met ETFO’s demands for respectful, open discussions, its precarious minority position and commitment to working within its current fiscal framework created many challenges at the discussion table.

ETFO did everything it could to alleviate the damage caused by the McGuinty government and its imposition of Bill 115. The ensuing agreement reached in June was ratified by 91% of ETFO members participating in an online vote.

The provincial agreement delivered improvements in maternity leave, sick leave, and the reduction of unpaid days. It also put in place task forces focused on workload, and health and safety issues, which will create a safer and more successful learning environment for students and teachers.

The agreement will also end a longstanding injustice by removing the 2% salary penalty imposed on ETFO members in 2008. ETFO members will gain wage parity with all other Ontario teachers when the current collective agreement ends August 31, 2014.


Empowering Students, Girls, and Women

ETFO continues to assist governments, educators, and NGOs to build effective education systems for children, and empower girls and women.

In northwestern Cambodia, ETFO has partnered with the Maddox Jolie Pitt (MJP) Foundation since 2010 to develop a Women’s Prosperity Centre. It provides a venue for women to meet, gain literacy skills, and access vocational training. In August 2012, MJP CEO Stephan Bognar updated Annual Meeting delegates on this work and presented a video of thanks from the women and children of Samlout Cambodia. View the video at

In Medellin Colombia, ETFO has sponsored a girls’ literacy project in the mountains of the “city of eternal spring” for three years. ETFO, in partnership with the City’s Foundation for Progress and Education Development, is supporting Single Mothers – Seeds of Hope which provides support to women in three rural districts of Columbia. These are very high risk regions due to their location, instability, high rates of domestic violence, and extreme instability for young women due to conflicts between gangs and other armed groups.

ETFO has established a partnership with the libraries (“Raton de Biblioteca Foundation”) in the poorest neighbourhoods of Medellin, providing support to over 50 single mothers and 63 children aged 5-14 years identified as being “at-risk”. The programs provide educational opportunities to improve literacy and social skills of young girls and their mothers through weekly artistic and literacy activities in both English and Spanish, to transform the adverse conditions in their immediate environment and provide hope.

In Thailand, Right To Play and ETFO have worked with Thailand’s Ministry of Education since 2010 to support local educators in developing and implementing a national life skills curriculum. Last fall, ETFO hosted 16 high-ranking ministry representatives who were on a study tour to learn about the Canadian education system, specifically curriculum development and implementation.

Trade unions have long championed women’s rights in co-operation with other civil society groups. In March, ETFO representatives were once again delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) annual meeting in New York. The event is pivotal for international advocacy efforts to advance women’s rights.

Bénin Pedagogy of Physical Play Project

In Benin, West Africa, ETFO and Right To Play continued to work with the country’s Ministry of Education to implement a national early childhood curriculum. Last April, ETFO current and former staff trained 30 representatives from the Ministry L’Ecole Normale (faculty of education), inspectors, trainers, and teachers on The Pedagogy of Physical Play.

Training included workshops on physical play, and the newest and fifth Big Book, Je veux devenir une docteure. A story about career aspirations of a young Bénin girl, the book addresses girls’ right to schooling and provides encouragement to girls to choose less traditional occupations. The workshops were videotaped and posted on a new ETFO website for early childhood educators called Réseau pédagogigue de la petite enfance au Bénin at The site will archive resources, and provide Bénin teachers and trainers with research and practical links. It is also useful to ETFO members who teach in early French Immersion programs.

Bénin Ambassador H. E. Honoré Théodore Ahimakin, and Nina Valentic, Senior Director of International Programs for Right To Play International, spoke at ETFO’s spring 2013 Representative Council about the importance of this work in Bénin.

Advancing and Protecting Our Union, Our Values and Our Profession

ETFO’s Collective Bargaining Campaign

The 2014 round of collective bargaining for ETFO was going to be different on two accounts.

The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, or Bill 122, mandated a system of two-tiered collective bargaining in the education sector to include central bargaining (provincial) and local bargaining. ETFO would have two central tables: one for negotiating central items for teachers and occasional teachers; and another for negotiating central items for education support workers. This was also the first time that the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) would be a party at central table discussions.

Long before ETFO’s collective agreements expired on August 31, 2014, the Federation had worked with members to develop collective bargaining (CB) goals.

In early September, ETFO launched a CB Communication’s campaign called Our Union Our Values Our Profession. The Our Union campaign has continued to inform, educate, engage and mobilize members about the goals established by ETFO for the 2014 round of collective bargaining, as well as about bargaining-related events. The campaign’s photos and visuals highlight ETFO members - the ‘faces of our union’. The campaign features a specialized collective bargaining website at, a CB eNewsletter with over 65,000 member subscribers, bargaining bulletins, print resources, social media shareables, buttons, t-shirts and a CB app.

As the year unfolded, ETFO and its members championed teacher working conditions and student learning conditions, and stood up for issues involving class size, self-directed preparation time, supervision time, teachers’ ability to exercise their professional judgement in the classroom and fair hiring practices.

Central Strike Vote
ETFO held an all-member central strike vote in late November with very strong participation.

Members voted 95% in favour of taking strike action if necessary to back up ETFO’s call for meaningful central table bargaining. An extensive communication and mobilization plan for the central strike vote was developed by ETFO’s Collective Bargaining service area. It included:

  • steward training sessions and steward-led worksite meetings;
  • mass meetings in each ETFO local;
  • a special central strike vote section on the Our Union CB website;
  • CB eNewsletter and bargaining bulletin updates;
  • a social media strike vote awareness campaign;
  • provincial telephone town hall meetings and automated voicemail messages;
  • a mailing to members’ homes; and
  • a toll free strike vote help centre.

A member-only online voting site provided information, a close captioned video of President Hammond discussing the strike vote and an audio file of the provincial telephone town hall meetings.

Teacher/Occasional Teacher Central Bargaining - Timelines

December 4: Central Table list of items reached
A Memorandum of Settlement is reached between ETFO, OPSBA and the government which lists the items for central bargaining for the teacher and occasional teacher central table negotiations. ETFO participates in negotiations of these items in January, February and March, 2015.

February 23: OPSBA/government table demands
OPSBA and the government present ETFO with their demands, which include:

  • stripping sick leave provisions;
  • increasing supervision time;
  • allowing principals to direct how members use their preparation time;
  • ending members’ ability to determine how many and what types of diagnostic tests are necessary for their students;
  • removing any provisions from local collective agreements about staffing, hiring, class size and other entitlements superior to central terms; and
  • wanting the ability to assign members extra duties before, during and after the instructional day.

Monetary concession demands include:

  • 0% funding for compensation;
  • maintaining the 97-day delay on salary grid movement for three more years;
  • eliminating degree and qualification-based allowance language from local collective agreements;
  • limiting pregnancy and parental leave entitlement to eight weeks at 100% salary and eliminating any superior Supplemental Employment Benefits (SEB) from local collective agreements.

ETFO’s bargaining team advises OPSBA and the government on February 23, March 2, 23 and 24 that ETFO will not agree to concessions, and that tabling these unacceptable demands does not promote a collegial working relationship at the bargaining table.

March 31: ETFO applies for conciliation
ETFO applies for conciliation regarding bargaining at the teacher/occasional teacher table. On April 17, ETFO requests a no board report and is in a legal central strike position on May 11.

May 11: ETFO commences work-to-rule
ETFO begins a province-wide administrative work-to-rule strike action for all teacher and occasional teacher members. OPSBA and the government make no attempt to remove their central table strips.

June 1: ETFO updates strike action
On June 1, ETFO updates its work-to-rule strike sanction for all teacher and occasional teacher members.

Classes without EQAO!
As a direct result of ETFO’s administrative work-to-rule strike action, the Ministry of Education cancelled spring EQAO testing in Grades 3-6 in public elementary schools.

For ETFO teachers, the cancellation provided welcome opportunities for more meaningful teaching and learning. Teachers’ professional judgement and day-to-day assessment provided a more meaningful and accurate reflection of what students know and can do. Teachers took to social media to express their relief and teaching plans for an EQAO-free spring. ETFO established a special section at for members to share their thoughts about EQAO and teaching practices in their EQAO-free classrooms. Many parents expressed their relief regarding the EQAO cancellation in traditional and social media and in letters to the Federation.

In June, ETFO ran a radio ad in which a teacher talked about how teachers assess students every day and that “standardized tests don’t really help teachers to teach or kids to learn.”

School Boards Flip-Flop on Report Cards
As part of ETFO’s work-to-rule action, teachers provided year-end report card grades without comments in print form to their principals. It was left to district school board administrators to input these marks electronically and issue report cards to students.

A public outcry ensued when Toronto, York Region, Peel and several other district school boards announced that they would send a pass/fail form letter instead of a report card to parents. In media relations and advertisements, ETFO made it clear that teachers had fulfilled their responsibilities by submitting grades and that it was the school principal’s legal responsibility to distribute student marks. ETFO ads appeared in Toronto, York Region, Peel, Ottawa-Carleton, Thames Valley and Waterloo Region.

ETFO won a major public relations coup when district school boards reversed their position and announced they would provide report card marks.

ETFO and AffiliatesTarget Liberals, OPSBA
Faced with similar contract strips and intransigence at the bargaining table, other education affiliates and ETFO worked to put public pressure on the Liberal government and OPSBA. On May 14, ETFO local leaders left Representative Council to join a mass rally organized by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) at Queen’s Park, which was also attended by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.

On June 6, GTA locals and ETFO held a mass rally at the Ontario Liberal Party’s annual general meeting. Busloads of ETFO members poured into Blue Mountain Resort to protest the stalled negotiations and the government’s failure to remove objectionable contract demands. At the same time, ETFO’s Communications and Political Action service area supported local engagement with MPPs and trustees regarding the central table bargaining impasse.

On June 13, ETFO’s GTA locals organized a mass picket at OPSBA’s annual meeting to protest the proposed strips to collective agreement provisions that were fairly negotiated over the last decade. For the second week in a row, busloads of ETFO members descended on the Blue Mountain resort, this time to publicly give OPSBA a failing grade in bargaining.

As bargaining stalemates continued to the end of the school term, the education affiliates held a number of meetings to discuss further solidarity and possible action for the fall. Their message to the media and public was that “things will not be normal this fall in schools” if the government and OPSBA don’t change their approach to central bargaining.

Teacher and Occasional Teacher Local Bargaining
Under the legislation, once the central item list has been determined, local bargaining may commence and proceed concurrently with central bargaining. On January 14, ETFO notified OPSBA that ETFO local bargaining would commence on or after February 23 for teacher and occasional teacher bargaining units. Working with negotiators from ETFO’s Collective Bargaining service area, locals then began local bargaining, which progressed through the spring despite the lack of progress at the central table. Under the Act, local tentative Minutes of Settlements may not be signed off and ratified until central table negotiations have been signed off and ratified.

DECE/PSP/ESP Central Bargaining Table
ETFO, OPSBA, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) and the government met on January 20 to continue to attempt to reach agreement on central table items.

All central table items were agreed upon with the exception of two; it was ETFO’s position that the matter of student supervision and the equitable assignment of supervision should be negotiated centrally. The other side disagreed. As per the provisions of the Act, ETFO referred the matter to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) for determination on whether the matters were to be negotiated centrally or locally. Until that decision had been determined, neither central bargaining nor local bargaining for ETFO’s education support professionals could commence under the confines of the Act.

The matter was heard before Vice-Chair Mary Anne McKellar on May 20.Two days later, the OLRB ruled that student supervision and the equitable assignment of supervision were not central matters therefore are issues to be bargained locally. With this decision the central list was finalized, allowing ETFO to commence local bargaining for Designated Early Childhood Educators, Educational Support Personnel, Professional Support Personnel and other support staff members.

Reports Arising from Memorandum of Understanding
Three reports (below) were issued last fall that were negotiated by ETFO as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the government in June 2013. They support ETFO’s 2014 bargaining positions on these issues for central and local bargaining.

Ontario Regulation 274 Report
This regulation was introduced in 2012 to establish consistent hiring practices for occasional and new permanent teachers in all Ontario school boards.

The study, Ontario Regulation 274 was released in November. It documented the challenges of implementing the regulation and its effects on hiring with information provided by school boards and other education stakeholders, including ETFO. It concluded that in general the regulation does provide for fair, transparent hiring practices. To view the study see __

Task Force on Health and Safety
In October, the ETFO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety released its report with 22 recommendations to make Ontario public elementary school communities healthier and safer places to work and learn. The report reflects the collaborative and productive work of task force members representing ETFO and the Ontario Public Supervisory Officers' Association, and task force advisors representing the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour.

The overarching mandate of the Task Force was to examine the workplace health and safety issues confronting ETFO members, to provide information and make recommendations to help address these concerns. This was the first time in Ontario that a labour union, schools boards and government have collaborated to identify how to create safer and healthier school communities for staff and students.

The Task Force recognized that the working environment for educators is the learning environment for students. It embraced a whole school approach where everyone in the school community is committed to a positive health and safety culture. The report identified six leading issues: training; workplace violence and serious student incidents; lockdown procedures; JHSC effectiveness; environmental issues such as indoor air quality, asbestos and construction; and the need for a provincial advisory structure to support the development of safer and healthier school communities. The report can be viewed at http:/

Teacher Workload and Professionalism Study
In November, The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Teacher Workload and Professionalism Study was released by the Ministry of Education.

The teacher workload study was conducted on behalf of the Ministry by Charles Ungerleider and Ruth Baumann of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group. The study found that while Ontario’s elementary teachers exhibit high levels of professionalism, their workload is negatively impacted by the way in which government policy and reforms are introduced, as well as the time spent on administrative rather than instructional tasks. Other factors adding to teacher workload and stress include class sizes in junior and intermediate grades, the number of students with special needs, unnecessary paperwork and reports, and a constant stream of new educational initiatives. The study can be viewed on the Ministry website at:

Building Better Schools Public Relations Campaign
In April, ETFO launched an advertising campaign focussing on the message that “more one-on-one time makes all the difference,” focusing on smaller classes and support for students with special needs, two building blocks of ETFO’s Building Better Schools Education Agenda. The goal of the campaign was to remind the public that teachers are doing the best they can but that smaller class sizes are essential to ensuring that the learning needs of every student are met.

Along with television and radio ads, the province-wide campaign featured billboards, transit shelters, exterior bus ads, GO stations and a complete ‘wrap-around’ of the Queen’s Park TTC station. A print ad template and a lawn sign template were designed and made available for use by locals. The website was re-launched with sharable graphics that ETFO members and others could use.

Facebook, twitter and other social media posts on the campaign were very successful as members shared graphics from the website and posted their own photos of outdoor advertising. A postcard directed to the minister of education was distributed in both paper and electronic form to members. It was used as a talking piece with parents or community members, who were encouraged to send the postcard to the minister.

For three weeks in June, two radio ads were launched during ETFO’s work-to-rule strike action. One message emphasized that “elementary teachers are bargaining for a better deal for our classrooms … with smaller classes and more support for children with special needs.” The other focused on assessment, given that the government cancelled EQAO tests as a result of member strike action. The ad, broadcast while students would normally be writing the EQAO tests, contrasted the assessment directed by ETFO members who know their students with the standardized tests demanded by the government.

ETFO at Queen’s Park
ETFO representatives held a number of meetings with MPPs during the year, in particular with the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressive Conservative education critics and with newly elected MPPs including ETFO members NDP MPP Jennifer French and Liberal MPP Ann Hoggarth. The meetings focused on promoting the Federation’s Building Better Schools plan and advising MPPs of issues related to the impasse in central table bargaining.

ETFO continued to bring forward the Federation’s ongoing concerns regarding the full-day Kindergarten program to Ministry of Education officials, the offices of the Premier and Minister of Education and the opposition parties. The Ministry’s plans for Kindergarten assessment, evaluation and reporting and the professional learning required to support the new initiatives were central to the meetings with government officials.

ETFO continued to monitor the government’s plans to move forward with amendments to the Ontario Colleges of Teachers Act related to the investigation and discipline of members facing allegations. Legislation introduced in September 2013 has been relegated to the back burner while the government focuses on education sector bargaining.

ETFO worked directly and in collaboration with the Ontario Federation of Labour to profile workplace health and safety issues. In the spring, ETFO First Vice-President Susan Swackhammer presented to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment, sharing the Federation’s involvement in these issues as they relate to both the workplace and society in general.

ETFO supported the efforts of the Rainbow locals to elect an NDP candidate in the February 2015 Sudbury by-election. It was held to replace ETFO member Joe Cimino who resigned, citing family reasons, less than six months after being elected. Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault was successful in the by-election.

21st Century Professionalism and Leadership

This year ETFO embraced opportunities provided by a changing technological environment to provide innovative and efficient ways of engaging members and local leaders in their learning.

Think, Respect and Thrive Online, an ETFO Digital Citizenship Resource
In an effort to assist ETFO members in supporting students to become 21st century learners, ETFO worked with nine members to develop a unique, ground-breaking digital citizenship curriculum. Think, Respect and Thrive Online contains more than 45 lessons which are stranded from Kindergarten to grade 8. The lessons focus on five areas: internet safety; positive online relationships; information literacy; personal identity and digital footprint; and health and balance with technology. The book is sold with a flash drive containing all of the lesson materials for student use in both English and French.

Federal Election Preparedness
In the past, ETFO has focused primarily on elections at the provincial and municipal levels, as they are the source of education governance and funding and where primary responsibility for the social issues of most interest to the union lies. Times have changed. The economic and social policies of the Harper government increasingly intersect with key ETFO concerns and directly affect the viability of unions, the status of women, and social and economic equality. Direct ETFO engagement in the next federal election has become an imperative.

For these reasons, the Executive approved a plan to actively engage members to have an impact on the outcome of the 2015 federal election. The goals are to mobilize members to get involved in campaigns and to prevent the re-election of the Conservative government.

During the year, ETFO worked with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in its campaign to promote relevant federal issues for the election including jobs, pension/retirement, health care and childcare. Dozens of ETFO members attended regional CLC pre-election workshops held during the winter in communities including Kitchener, London, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, Hamilton, Sudbury and Thunder Bay. Members were also encouraged to participate in the Time for Change CLC follow-up tour planned for June.

ETFO also supported the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Hear My Voice campaign. With the message “I teach. I vote”, CTF has prepared election materials that target two issues; young people’s mental health issues and child poverty. The campaign, which ETFO will promote to its members, calls on political parties to implement a national mental health strategy and a federal poverty reduction strategy.

In April, more than 75 members attended an ETFO Women in Politics conference, which set the context for the federal election and included a session on training participants to be election volunteers.
Advancing Education and Equity

Advancing First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education
In 2014, ETFO increased its commitment to advancing First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) professional development/learning and education. The Federation hired its first dedicated FNMI executive staff member to support a number of initiatives.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit Statement and Poster
ETFO amended its First Nations, Métis and Inuitstatement to ensure that the statement is inclusive of the Indigenous peoples affiliated in different lands in Ontario. An Aboriginal artist was contracted to design a poster with the new FNMI statement. Seven objects in the poster were selected for their symbolism related to diversity of FNMI peoples: an Inukshuk; an eagle feather; two drums; a Métis sash; an embroidered flower; and wampum belt. The poster and further explanation about its design can viewed at

Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training for ETFO Staff
In April, presenters from the Kanyen'kehà:ka Experiential Learning Centre of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory provided a three-hour Aboriginal cultural competency workshop for ETFO staff. The session included information on the historical relationship with the government, intergenerational impacts, and the cultural values and beliefs of the people of the Six Nations area.

Right to Play Partnership focuses on Aboriginal Students
In 2014, ETFO conducted a FNMI environmental scan examining over 25 ETFO services, programs and resources supporting Aboriginal education offered between 1999 and 2014. While this programming has increased awareness and understanding of FNMI concerns, the effectiveness of these programs has not been assessed. Requests from local leaders suggest that members need appropriate strategies and skill sets for engaging Aboriginal children and families.

For assistance, ETFO turned to Right To Play Canada. For four years, the Federation has supported that organization’s work in promoting life skills among Aboriginal youth. An agreement was reached to develop an online survey and focus group to examine challenges that teachers of Aboriginal children face, and educational barriers faced by Aboriginal students. The information will be used to develop resources and teaching strategies.

Supporting FNMI Members Webinar
In December, a webinar was provided for local leaders to examine the unique challenges that FNMI members may face in the workplace, as well as strategies for supporting them. Information was included from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) research document, “A Study on Aboriginal Teachers’ Professional Knowledge and Experience in Canadian Schools.” Areas of inquiry in the study were shared and discussed during the webinar including: philosophy of education; integration of Aboriginal content and perspectives into the curriculum; experiences of racism; and relationships with allies.

Other FNMI professional development initiatives appear on page 32.

Spirit Horse Southern Ontario Tour
In March, ETFO launched a southern Ontario tour of the play Spirit Horse, igniting imaginations and studies in First Nations, Métis and Inuit diversity, history and perspectives in public elementary schools.

Adapted by Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, Spirit Horse is a powerful theatre production that chronicles the adventures of two Aboriginal children who challenge cultural stereotypes and confront racism. The play was performed by Roseneath Theatre for Grades 4-8 students in 75 communities as well as candidates at many faculties of education. Organized by ETFO with funding from the Ministry of Education, all performances were accompanied by online and face-to-face professional development/learning for public elementary teachers.

Sixteen ETFO Spirit Horse Aboriginal education leaders, over half of whom self-identified as Aboriginal, participated in a two-day training session to deliver the professional development learning. Training included presentations on teachable moments from the play, residential school impact and addressing stereotypes. Leaders also shared FNMI education best practices and teaching strategies. ETFO established a website at featuring tour dates and locations, online professional development/learning, classroom resources and ways for students to post comments to the cast arising from the play.

The spring tour was launched at Western University’s Faculty of Education in the presence of the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, former Regional Chief Stan Beardy of the Chiefs of Ontario and Grand Chief Gord Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians.

Rethinking White Privilege
ETFO’s new workshop, Re-Thinking White Privilege, was launched at the fall Leadership 2014 conference, with all local leaders, status of women chairs and social justice and equity chairs attending the sessions. The workshop has since been offered to local executives, local stewards and to members through the Equity Workshop series, reaching over 450 members. Interesting and searching conversations have flowed from the workshop. A print resource to support the work on white privilege was prepared with input from members for launch at ETFO’s 2015 Annual Meeting. It offers further reflection and concrete suggestions for grappling with the issues of privilege and racism in educators’ practice.

Everyone Is Able Launch
Everyone Is Able is a new ETFO resource developed to increase awareness and understanding of abilities/disabilities. At its heart is a documentary video featuring interviews with ETFO members and others. They and filmmaker Karen Shopsowitz attended the video’s official launch last fall at a screening and reception held at ETFO provincial office.

Everyone Is Able is designed to: challenge thinking, assumptions and stereotypes about ability/disability; raise awareness of the issues around ability/disability; and inspire us to take action to create change. The resource includes a DVD and a CD guidebook that educators can use in their classrooms with students. These resources challenge ETFO members to remove barriers and change attitudes towards people with disabilities.

PrideHouse Toronto - An LGBTQ-friendly Pan Am Games
As a founding member of PrideHouse Toronto, ETFO worked with a coalition of groups to make the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games the most inclusive multi-sport games ever for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) people. PrideHouse Toronto, whose motto is “A place for all in sport,” is part of an international movement working to transform multi-sport games. In making sport and recreation spaces more inclusive for LGBTQ people, they become more welcoming and inclusive for everyone.

During the TORONTO 2015 Games, the PrideHouse Pavilion provided a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ people and allies to celebrate the Games. Along with Games-viewing and parties, the Pavilion offered LGBTQ sports, arts and community programming. Each weekend during the Games, PrideHouse Celebrates! offered live entertainment, opportunities to participate in, and watch, sports and recreation activities and a Pan American food festival.

ETFO partnered with PrideHouse Toronto on The PrideHouse That Kids Built, a teacher resource featuring nine short stories by David S. Craig. The stories were designed to spark creative discussion and critical thinking between students and their teachers about why some kids are excluded, or withdraw from, sport and recreation. Mailed to every public, Catholic and French elementary school in Ontario, the initiative invited schools to submit a decorated cardboard ‘brick’ with thoughts about inclusion in sport. These bricks formed the basis of a professional art installation at the Ontario Celebration Zone at Harbourfront during the Pan Am Games created by artists Kalpna Patel and Sean Martindale. Over 4,000 local and international visitors toured the site during the Games.

Nepal relief efforts
When the tragic earthquake struck Nepal in April, ETFO and its locals moved quickly to send funds for relief efforts. The Federation made initial donations of $10,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and another $10,000 to the Education International Solidarity fund to support education affiliates in Nepal and their individual members and families.

ETFO locals made donations of $20,950 for Nepal aid. Given that ETFO had pledged to match donations from ETFO locals up to an additional $20,000, the total donation from the Federation rose to $40,000.


Canadian Labour Congress and Ontario Federation of Labour
ETFO welcomed and helped promote the second round of television ads for “Together Fairness Works” the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign to push back against the anti-union agenda. In 2014, ETFO strengthened its ties with the CLC by assigning Communications and Political Action staff to the CLC’s Political Action Committee and its Solidarity and Pride Working Group.

ETFO was also active with the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) with Vice Presidents Maureen Weinberger and James McCormick serving as Executive Board members. ETFO joined affiliates in a meeting with the Minister of Labour to discuss issues including public services program spending, Ontario’s Retirement Pension Plan, tax reform and recommended revenue tools, and privatization of Hydro One. ETFO also helped plan an OFL Women’s Summit held in June. More than 150 women attended the summit including 30 ETFO members. The sessions focused on leadership and getting ready for the federal election around issues such as child care.

While the OFL provided support for the mass rally at the Liberal annual general meeting in June, ETFO members were involved with OFL advocacy efforts at the grassroots level. Members attended OFL community meetings and mobilized around issues including raising the minimum wage, equal pay, worker health and safety, the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate, and equity and anti-racist initiatives.

ETFO Takes Action on Union Issues

This year, ETFO set up a new section on the front page of its website at called ETFO Takes Action. It will continue to provide updates on issues related to trade unionism, public services and equity and social justice and ways for ETFO members to take action.

Keeping Hydro Public
In the spring, the Wynne government announced plans to partially privatize publicly-operated local utilities including Hydro One. ETFO endorsed the campaign and joined other unions at the Ontario Liberal Party’s Annual General Meeting in Blue Mountain to protest the sell-off of public services.

Report to the 2015 Annual Meeting Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, August 2015

Building Better Schools: A New Era of Professional Judgement

Teacher Professional Judgement:
History-Making Recognition
“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.”
On November 2, 2015, ETFO reached a central agreement with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Crown. For the first time in history, the definition of teacher professional judgement was included in our collective agreement. The definition is as follows:
“Professional Judgement shall be defined as judgement that is informed by professional knowledge of curriculum expectations, context, evidence of learning, methods of instruction and assessment, and the criteria and standards that indicate success in student learning. In professional practice, judgement involves a purposeful and systematic thinking process that evolves in terms of accuracy and insight with ongoing reflection and self-correction.”
ETFO has advocated for greater recognition of teacher professional judgement for years. The inclusion of the definition in the central agreement was a significant win for ETFO and the teaching profession. It recognizes the value of our members’ wisdom and experience in all areas of their teaching practice and restores balance in their professional lives.
Professional judgement in education is intrinsic to, and has an impact on, all aspects of the teaching role. On a daily basis, educators make many decisions about their practice using their professional judgement. This judgement allows them to utilize their understanding of the context of their classroom and students, their professional knowledge and their training in order to implement the curriculum in a meaningful way.
In January and May, teacher and occasional teacher local presidents received special Collective Bargaining bulletins to distribute to members which focused on using professional judgement during the completion of the Ontario Provincial Report Card. This bulletin was also distributed to ETFO members in a CB Newsletter and posted on the ETFO website.

In May, ETFO published Understanding Your Professional Judgement toprovide members with teacher professional judgement details and steps for communicating with school administration and the local president if required.
In these positive and inspiring times, professional judgement forms a stronger part of the ETFO identity than ever before. Given this ground-breaking achievement, ETFO’s priority is to continue educating teachers about their professional judgement in the Federation’s programs and resources.

Bargaining to Impact Working
And Learning Conditions

After 14 months of negotiations, which included administrative work-to-rule strike action by ETFO teachers and occasional teachers, ETFO’s central table agreements concluded in late fall. The Federation’s provincial executive and negotiating team were determined to preserve gains in previous bargaining rounds and make issues that impact on elementary working and learning conditions a priority.
Central Bargaining
Under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014ETFO negotiated at two central tables commencing in September 2014: a central table for teachers and occasional teachers and a central table for Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECEs), Educational Support Personnel (ESP) and Professional Support Personnel (PSP).
Following almost six months of work-to-rule strike action by teacher and occasional teacher members, a tentative agreement was reached in November 2015 with the Federation, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Crown. Subsequently, ETFO teacher and occasional teacher locals and their members ratified the tentative agreement by a double majority vote through an online vote in November with 86 per cent of members and 98 per cent of locals voting to accept the tentative central agreement.
In November, a tentative central agreement was reached for DECE, ESP and PSP members with the Council of Trustees’ Association (CTA) and the Crown. Locals and their members ratified the tentative agreement by a double majority vote through an online vote in December, with 88 per cent of members and 100 per cent of locals voting to accept the tentative central agreement.
Highlights of Successful Negotiations
The successfully negotiated central agreements were extensive. Among the highlights: all proposed concessions from OPSBA were defeated including those that would have allowed increases in class sizes, restricted teachers’ preparation time to establish management control over it and compromised teachers’ ability to support student learning. ETFO’s negotiating team preserved all gains from the last round of bargaining. Superior entitlements in local collective agreements were also preserved.
The central table agreements included a number of improvements to member working conditions and student learning conditions including:
  • elimination of the 97-day delay on grid movement for all members;
  • one-time lump sum payment to active members of one per cent of earned salary as of September 2015;
  • a 1.5 per cent salary increase for all ETFO members in 2015-2016 and a further 0.5 per cent increase during 2016-2017;

  • a single comprehensive provincial benefits plan for eligible ETFO members;
  • a definition of teacher professional judgement in the collective agreement;
  • establishment of ETFO Central Committee work groups with OPSBA to review and make recommendations for improvement to grades 4 through 8 class size, collaborative professionalism and leadership, full-day Kindergarten, special education, provincial health and safety, Regulation 274 and Ministry/school board initiatives;
  • working groups with CTA to examine DECE working conditions and long term disability;
  • one half of an additional PA day in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years to be allocated for health and safety training for teachers and occasional teachers;
  • $600,000 for occasional teacher professional learning on workplace violence, serious student incidents and safe intervention;
  • training on the prevention of violence for DECE, ESP and PSP members whose core duties require them to have continuous contact with students who may pose a safety risk; and
  • one-half of a PA day in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years for role-specific training or professional learning for permanent DECE, ESP and PSP members.

Work to Rule
Beginning in May 2015, ETFO teachers and occasional teachers began a work-to-rule strike action to push back against proposed concessions at the central bargaining table. Designed to have minimal impact on students, the strike action was administrative in nature and included withdrawal from Ministry and school board meetings, workshops and initiatives.
The strike action escalated in October with teachers and occasional teachers withdrawing from all voluntary extracurricular activities. After OPSBA released confidential bargaining information to the media that month, hundreds of members and local leaders attending ETFO Representative Council gathered for an impromptu rally outside OPSBA’s Toronto headquarters.

Local Bargaining
ETFO Collective Bargaining (CB) staff worked with local bargaining units to reach 84 local tentative agreements. As of June 30, only a few local bargaining units had not reached tentative agreements.

Provincial CB staff continued to monitor the roll-out of the ETFO central agreements provisions following local ratifications and work with locals and school boards to mesh the structure and content of final local collective agreements including the Central Agreement (Part A) and the Local Agreement (Part B). Local agreements include the locally agreed articles from this round of bargaining as well as the 2013 Schedule “A” locally agreed items. They incorporate specific provisions from the Central Agreement and the ETFO 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as set out in the Central Agreement.

Central Committees
Two central committees were established in the central agreements: the Central Dispute Resolution Committee to deal with issues and any grievances filed relating to the implementation of the central agreements; and the Central Labour Relations Committee to promote and facilitate communication between rounds of bargaining on joint issues of interest and to try and resolve grievances. ETFO’s General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary responsible for collective bargaining are the Federation’s representatives on these central committees.

Communicating to Members
Communicating to members quickly and comprehensively about bargaining was a priority for ETFO throughout the bargaining round. The Federation used a number of vehicles including:
  • Thirty-seven central bargaining bulletins over the course of 18 months;
  • Collective Bargaining (CB) eNewsletter updates, video presentations, voicemail alerts and invitations to participate in telephone town halls with President Hammond to over 70,000 members who had provided ETFO with up-to-date contact information;
  • ETFO’s CB website ( which was an ongoing source of information about bargaining for Federation members and the public; and
  • a member-only CB Facebook group with over 5,000 members that provided a safe, private space to discuss bargaining-related matters and participate in online coordinated activism in support of bargaining goals.

In August, the CB website logged over 100,000 hits when President Hammond announced the escalation of work-to-rule strike action for September during his live-streamed address at the 2015 Annual Meeting. ETFO remained on the technological forefront of member communication about bargaining as the only union in Canada to provide a “CB app” focused exclusively on bargaining information and updates.
The Federation and its members also led the way in using social media to support collective bargaining. In response to OPSBA’s bargaining demands for control over elementary teachers’ preparation time, ETFO members created hashtag campaigns on Twitter to educate the public and media about the importance of prep time (#mypreptime) and the many ways that members go above and beyond classroom instruction to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the children in their care (#4mystudents).
Members’ enthusiasm for social media also made ETFO’s August 31 “Virtual March on Queen’s Park” a great success. Over 693,485 social media users saw ETFO’s Thunderclap (a crowdspeaking platform) message to the government and OPSBA: #KathleenWynne #LizSandals #OPSBA: 1 yr w/o a contract today. #ETFO members expect fair bargaining tomorrow! #ontED.

Communicating with the Public
With such a prolonged period of bargaining, and strike action, to arrive at the 2014 agreements, it was important to keep the public informed about the issues involved which included items that affect student learning conditions. ETFO issued over 22 media releases related to the negotiations.
Throughout the work-to-rule strike action, Communications and Political Action Services supported bargaining through a public relations campaign that included radio and print ads run in major dailies and weeklies. Some ads encouraged parents and families of students to contact their MPP and school trustees to press OPSBA and the Crown to return to the bargaining table. Others outlined why class size and support for students with special needs were important as part of negotiations.
ETFO also created handouts for parents for distribution at local information pickets and rallies including Message to Parents: We’re Standing Up for Teaching and Learning Conditions, We Need Your Help and What Did We Achieve for Parents? Close to 5,200 e-mails were sent to the Minister of Education’s constituency office through a web letter posted and promoted on ETFO’s website and Facebook pages.
2015 Central Committee Workgroup Reports
As part of the Central Agreement for teachers and occasional teachers ratified in November, a number of Central Committees were established with representation from ETFO and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA). The Central Agreement for DECE, ESP and PSP members also established a DECE Workgroup with representation from ETFO and the Council of Trustees Association (CTA) and a committee on long-term disability (LTD).
The value of such working groups was established during the last round of collective bargaining when the ETFO Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) established similar committees for health and safety and Regulation 274. In both cases, recommendations arising from these committees made a positive impact on the working conditions of members.
While staff represented ETFO on the Central Committees, the Federation established workgroups to support each central committee and to promote grassroots input. The workgroups had representation from members, local and provincial Executive members and staff.

Provincial Committee on Collaborative Professionalism and Leadership Policy and Program Memorandum (PPM)
ETFO staff represented the Federation on the committee that provided recommendations for a Policy and Program Memorandum (PPM) on collaborative professionalism and leadership. The committee heard several presentations on professional collaboration, transformation, and leadership by educational leaders such as Dr. Carol Campbell, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves. Presentations were also provided on the ETFO workload study and the principal/vice principal workload study arising from the last MOU. The committee provided suggestions for the components of the PPM. ETFO raised issues about the challenges of trying to implement collaborative approaches through a PPM. ETFO also requested that general guiding principles/norms be included in the PPM for the local/school board committees to ensure that local leaders have an authentic voice at the board level with an opportunity to provide input and problem-solve collaboratively through various stages of initiatives.
The PPM was completed by May 31, 2016 and the Ontario Ministry of Education is in the process of sharing the PPM with school board leaders. ETFO considers this result a significant advance as the PPM ties in directly with the Federation’s position and resources on professional judgement.

Ministry Initiatives Committee
ETFO staff has represented the Federation on the committee responsible for discussing new initiatives, including implications for training, resources and timing. ETFO raised concerns over the purpose and direction of the committee, and has worked to develop a process for providing input into the review, development, implementation and evaluation of any initiatives impacting the workload of teachers. The committee will review which current initiatives may need to be stopped, adjusted or changed. It has heard presentations on the upcoming Mathematics and Wellness initiatives and sub-groups will be formed for each to provide an opportunity for feedback and review.

The constant roll-out of initiatives creates an unsustainable workload for members, a point that was reinforced by ETFO in these meetings. Going forward, meetings will be held quarterly each year.

Special Education Committee

The Special Education Committee was established with representatives from ETFO, the Ontario Ministry of Education and school board leadership in the area of special education to discuss current issues related to supporting students with special education needs. Recommendations arising from the committee are to be put forward to the Minister of Education. An internal workgroup, comprised of ETFO members, provided insight and relevant information to inform the discussion of the central committee. The internal workgroup met face-to-face at the provincial office in March. The Central Table Special Education Committee held a series of five meetings from April to June. The Ministry of Education provided a presentation on special education funding to answer questions related to the funding formula and special education allocations. At the writing of this report, discussions on current issues had just been initiated and recommendations had not yet been finalized.

Committee on Regulation 274
Letter of Agreement #2 in the teacher and occasional teacher central table agreement created an opportunity for the parties to discuss hiring practices (Regulation 274) with a facilitator jointly selected by the parties. As part of those discussions, the letter of agreement stated that the committee shall address the following issues, including but not limited to: the size of the LTO list, the number of interview cycles and the interview process.
Michele Ryan from the Ontario Ministry of Labour – Dispute Resolutions Services acted as the facilitator for these discussions. The parties met twice in April and May. To assist in these talks, the Federation surveyed local occasional teacher presidents for their experience and that of their members with regard to the implementation of Regulation 274.

Full-Day Kindergarten Committee and Workgroup
One of the outcomes of the Central Agreement was that a review of full-day Kindergarten (FDK) staffing, including class size and recommendations for improvement to the Minister of Education would be undertaken by a committee with representatives from ETFO, the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA). The committee met several times following an initial meeting in January.
ETFO staff requested and received data from the Ministry of Education on many aspects of staffing and class size for FDK. This data was useful in backing up experiential information that the Federation raised at the committee. Agreement was reached at the onset that all recommendations would go forward to the Education Minister but would be designated as coming from a specific group if there was no agreement from the entire committee. This was important because ETFO refused to be limited in making recommendations by any fiscal constraints put forward by the Ministry of Education.
The ETFO Executive also determined that there would be an ETFO FDK Workgroup to provide grassroots input and information about the program. The workgroup met in February and provided information on many issues that are part of the experience of FDK educator teams on a daily basis. The workgroup discussed possible solutions to make the FDK experience better for our earliest learners and for the teams who teach them. While recommendations from the committee were finalized by the end of June and sent to the Minister of Education, there was a sense that dialogue about improving staffing in FDK with the representative groups could continue.

Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECE) Central Table Committee
The DECE Central Table Committee comprised of ETFO, the Crown and the Council of Trustees’ Associations, met in June. Recommendations concerning DECEs’ hours of work, preparation time, including joint preparation time, FDK class size, students with special needs, staffing levels and professional collaboration and learning were discussed. Discussions will be ongoing. Prior to the meeting, the ETFO DECE Central Table Workgroup met in June to provide grassroots input and anecdotal information for staff to share at the Central Table Committee meetings.

Grades 4-8 Class Size Committee
Memorandum #5 of the ETFO 2014-2017 Central Agreement called for the creation of a Grades 4-8 Class Size Committee.
The committee was comprised of three representatives each from ETFO, OPSBA and the Ministry of Education. The committee’s role was to review junior and intermediate class sizes in English language public boards for the 2015-16 school year and make recommendations for potential areas of improvement. The review included:
  • analysis of existing data regarding junior and intermediate division class size;
  • review of levels of regulatory compliance for junior/intermediate class sizes by school boards;
  • identification of operational issues that affect class size non-compliance in the junior/intermediate divisions; and
  • development of options to address class size non-compliance in these divisions.

The committee met on a number of occasions and will be making recommendations to the Minister of Education regarding junior/intermediate class sizes by December 2016.

ESP/PSP/DECE Long Term Disability Plan Working Group
Letter of Agreement #7 of the Education Workers Central Agreement provided for a joint central committee to study options related to sustainability and affordability of existing LTD plans. The committee which has representatives from ETFO and the Council of Trustees’ Associations, first met in May and reviewed its mandate and processes for data collection. The May 31 deadline for recommendations was extended and the committee is setting up an additional meeting. Once ETFO staff has information to report to the provincial workgroup, a workgroup meeting will be established. The provincial workgroup is composed of DECE/PSP/ESP local leaders who will provide information and feedback to support the Federation’s positions on specific issues at the Central Table Committee.

Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety
The need to establish a provincial structure for working with education partners was first identified in the ETFO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety Report and Recommendations in 2014 (ETFO MOU Task Force Report). The ETFO 2015 Central Agreement reconfirmed the intention to implement the recommendations in the ETFO MOU Task Force Report; and to participate in a Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety. The implementation plan is currently being developed in consultation with the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Members of the Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety include six education sector bargaining agencies, all four provincial school board organizations and the Ministry of Education. The mandate of the Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety is: to function as an ongoing, provincial-level advisory structure; to examine and support system-wide health and safety applications; and to make recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and to the Ministry of Education.
This working group has focused primarily on developing a common understanding about the challenges of meeting the legislative and policy requirements for workplace violence and serious student incidents. ETFO resources and research have been useful for this purpose. The need for consistent training, procedures and supports for dealing with issues related to workplace violence and serious student incidents is clearly evident. The Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety has met six times since January and will resume meetings in September.

The New ETFO Employee Life and Health Trust Benefits Plan
In accordance with provisions of ETFO’s central bargaining agreements, a new Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) Benefits Plan will be established by September 1, 2016 for eligible teachers, long term occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators (DECEs), education support personnel (ESP) and professional support personnel (PSP) members.
A benefits project team was established in spring 2014 to investigate such a plan in anticipation of the negotiations outcome. It reviewed all local benefit plans across the province to determine several plan options and eligibility. Following successful negotiations, the team refined the plan design in line with the negotiated funding achieved in the Central Letter of Agreement. The design was approved by ETFO provincial Executive in March and will be submitted for approval to the ELHT Trustees.
There are many benefits to transitioning to a provincial benefits plan.
  • Every member will have the same plan no matter what school board they are employed by. One plan ensures consistency in communication and service and provides universal protection and mandatory coverage for all members.
  • If a member moves between boards, they will maintain a consistent benefits plan.
  • One provincial plan allows for better buying power with insurance carriers and greater leverage during the renewal negotiations process with the insurance carrier.
  • One provincial plan provides ETFO with more control over the plan design through the Trust, and allows for better financial predictability in the form of rate stability. With more control and access to information about the plan and its use, the plan design can be balanced with the funds available. Boards will no longer determine how benefits funding is allocated.
  • School boards will no longer need access to members’ personal information such as lifestyle choices that is needed to administer the plan.
A Board of Trustees is responsible for administering the new benefits plan. It is comprised of nine voting members, including five ETFO-appointed trustees and four Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and government-appointed trustees. Each party will appoint one independent expert from its appointed trustees. ETFO holds a majority vote on the Trust.
The ETFO trustees include the Federation’s first vice-president, general secretary or designate, an executive staff person, a member-at-large and one independent expert trustee.
Manulife will be the insurance carrier. The Ontario Teachers’ Insurance Plan (OTIP) will be the third party administrator and is responsible for establishing the infrastructure to transition all local plans into the new plan. During and after the transition, OTIP will be responsible for answering members’ questions on a daily basis related to coverage, claims and general administrative inquiries related to benefits.
Local Transitions into the ETFO ELHT
Beginning November 1, 2016, locals will be transitioned into the ETFO ELHT on a staggered basis over the 2016-2017 school year. All locals will be transitioned into the Trust no later than August 31, 2017. Until a local transitions into the ETFO ELHT Benefits Plan, the school board will continue to provide benefits in accordance with the existing collective agreements.
The ETFO ELHT design information will be shared with all members in the fall of 2016 through vehicles including the ETFO Benefits eNewsletter, a benefits portal and direct mail and/or email communication.

The ETFO Provincial LTD Plan
The ETFO Provincial LTD Plan came into effect in November 2013 as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ETFO and the provincial government. The move to one provincial plan, rather than separate plans negotiated by locals, has provided a plan that is portable for members, more economically efficient and directed by and for ETFO members.
A Provincial LTD Plan Governance Board supports ETFO’s provincial Executive in fulfilling its responsibilities to achieve best practices in governance and ensure the Plan is administered in the best interest of members. The Board is comprised of five ETFO teacher members, two provincial Executive members, the Federation’s general secretary or designate and the coordinator of Collective Bargaining Services. OTIP acts as the third party administrator to the plan.
Over 55,685 ETFO members are protected by the Plan. In the third and fourth quarters of 2014-2015, the number of net new claims increased by 21 per cent over the previous year. LTD claims were higher for the entire year with Mental/Nervous claims continuing to be the top cause of disability. Claims in the first and second quarters of 2015-2016 were above average compared to the past two years.
Analysis of data shows that the average length of time that ETFO members are on LTD remains consistent at 46 months. The highest concentration of disability claimants are members who teach in the Kindergarten grades followed by members who teach Special Education and those who teach multi-grades. Forty-six per cent of member disabilities are related to Mental/Nervous conditions compared to 43 per cent in the OTIP pool and 42 per cent across all education plans in Canada. Further detail shows that 50 per cent of all ETFO claimants have a primary and/or secondary diagnosis related to Mental/Nervous conditions.
The plan has an early intervention (EI) program to support members which is a crucial and helpful component of the plan. Members identified through the Notice of Prolonged Absence process are informed of the EI services available to them to support their recovery and return to work. Thirty-three per cent of members participated in the EI program to receive assistance or funding for services such as counselling, massage therapy and physiotherapy.
In March 2016 the ETFO Provincial LTD rate was increased by 10 per cent from 1.13 to 1.24 per cent of insured salary. This was a result of increased activity across the OTIP pool and an eight per cent increase across all affiliates within the pool to bring premiums in line with costs. Unfortunately, the number of ETFO members on LTD has risen.

Also in March, a two per cent ETFO increase was implemented to enhance the ETFO LTD Plan to include a two-year LTD benefit for members aged 65-70. Should a member become disabled at age 63 or later, a maximum of 24 months of benefits payments for own occupation/assignment would be applicable. This increase was based on a recommendation from an ETFO 2014 Annual Meeting motion, which was in turn recommended by the Provincial LTD Plan Governance Board to the provincial Executive.
Comprehensive reports for all quarters were presented to local presidents at Representative Council and Presidents’ meetings. Going forward, the ETFO LTD Plan Governance Board will work with OTIP to increase member awareness of the Early Intervention program and alternative programs to support the mental health of members.

Bill 115 Charter Challenge Victory
In April, ETFO and other education unions won a major court victory at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The court found that the Ontario government’s Bill 115 imposed in the fall of 2012 was a violation of the collective bargaining rights of education unions.
In a court challenge led by ETFO, the win set an important legal precedent affirming the rights of all Canadian unions to free collective bargaining for their members. The court ruled that the passage of the Putting Students First Act infringed upon union members’ rights and that the process the government engaged in with Bill 115 was “fundamentally flawed’.
ETFO filed the Charter challenge in the fall of 2012. By imposing terms and conditions through Bill 115, the Ontario government abrogated teachers’ collective bargaining rights, including their right to strike.
Bill 115 blatantly interfered with lawful collective bargaining activities in the education sector for three years. It put the actions of the government beyond the review of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, outside the reach of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and even above the courts.

Following the decision, the government and unions have sought to agree on a remedy and discussions have commenced. If no agreement can be reached, the issue of remedy will be referred to the judge who heard the challenge for a determination.
ETFO at Queen’s Park
ETFO interacts in many ways to bring forward issues to Queen’s Park decision-makers and give voice to member concerns that affect working conditions and the quality of public education, and that relate to the Federation’s equity and social justice objectives.
In 2015-2016, ETFO elected representatives and staff engaged with MPPs, political staff and Ontario Ministry of Education staff to identify priority issues and proffered policies and strategies to address them.
ETFO presented submissions to the following:
  • the legislature’s pre-budget hearings in which ETFO addressed issues outlined in the Federation’s Building Better Schools agenda for elementary education;
  • hearings held to review Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment) 2015; and
  • input into an NDP MPP’s draft private member’s bill that proposes to ensure there is workplace leave available to victims of sexual violence or harassment and domestic abuse.
Kindergarten Implementation
Kindergarten implementation continues to be an ETFO priority. Throughout the year, ETFO representatives met with the Ontario Minister of Education, her staff and Ministry staff to discuss issues related to implementation of the new Kindergarten program, the Kindergarten addendum to Growing Success and the Communication of Learning Template. Working with other affiliates, ETFO was successful in having the Ministry reconsider its timelines for implementation of these new initiatives in order to provide more opportunities for in-service and support for the Kindergarten team.

Protecting Students Act, 2016
Bill 200, Protecting Students Act, 2016, proposes to implement the recommendations of the LeSage Report regarding the Ontario College of Teachers’ investigation of complaints and discipline of members faced with an allegation of professional misconduct. It is essentially the same as Bill 103 that was introduced in 2013, which was put aside during the intense round of education sector bargaining and died on the order paper when the legislature adjourned for the June 2014 election.
ETFO representatives lobbied for amendments to the bill in order to ensure a fairer balance between setting standards for investigation and complaints and protecting teachers’ rights to due process. In response to these efforts, Bill 200 includes some positive improvements to the process for providing members with prompt disclosure of information provided to the College related to the allegation. Bill 200 also modifies Bill 103 by introducing parallel changes to the investigation and discipline process administered by the College of Early Childhood Educators, the regulatory body for ETFO’s designated early childhood educator members. The Federation will have the opportunity to have further input when the bill is referred to a legislative committee for review.

Election Finances Amendments
The government’s Bill 201, Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016 if passed, will ban corporate and union political contributions and limit their ability to sponsor public campaigns during provincial elections and the six-month period before general elections are called. Prohibiting corporate and union political contributions parallels provisions in federal election law upheld by the Supreme Court but the limitation on third-party advertising outside of the election period is unique to the Ontario bill and raises concerns about the potential infringement of union Charter rights to freedom of expression. ETFO will bring forward its concerns through the legislature’s committee review process. It is anticipated that the bill will be passed by the end of 2016.

ETFO MPP Reception
During the year, ETFO locals were encouraged to promote the Building Better Schools plan through meetings with their area MPPs. In May, the Federation held a successful all-party MPP reception at Queen’s Park to continue those conversations. At the event, the Executive members and local presidents in attendance focused on three key issues: the impact of student violence on the classroom, the importance of lowering class size in grades 4 through 8 and the ongoing challenges experienced by the new Kindergarten program.

Auditor General’s Report and Professional Learning
In May, the office of the Auditor General of Ontario released its report “Government Payments to Education Sector Unions.” Among other items, it appeared to criticize funding provided to education unions for professional learning for educators. The report questioned whether these funds should be provided to school boards instead.
As one of the country’s leading providers of professional learning (PL) for educators, ETFO responded with a media release and letters to editors to emphasize that its professional learning model is efficient, practical, extensive and equitable. ETFO President Sam Hammond noted that the Ontario Ministry of Education and school boards have recognized this, which is why they have partnered with ETFO on many initiatives at provincial and local levels.
ETFO’s media messaging emphasized that its PL model, created by teachers and academic experts, provides high-quality, practical training to members that always enhances current curriculum and that the Federation has maintained rigorous accountability and reporting mechanisms for professional learning funding received from the government.

Fostering Community Support
Building Better Schools- Engaging the Public
Engaging parents, families and the broader public to work with ETFO to build better schools is an important way to foster broad support for education reforms.
ETFO’s agenda for education Building Better Schools: An Education Agenda is promoted through In March, ETFO’s Communications and Political Action Services launched a ‘retooled’ site designed to be a resource for parents and a vehicle for engaging the public. The site contains:
  • ways for parents and families to support their child’s education – including fostering school readiness, supporting reading and math and promoting equity in schools;
  • resources to navigate schools – from support for students with special needs to information about full-day Kindergarten, play-based learning and parent-teacher interviews;
  • articles on how teachers are bringing exciting projects into the classroom; and
  • news and views on issues affecting the quality of education – from crumbling schools, to standardized testing, class size and other ETFO education priorities.

Community Organizing Manual for Locals
Communications and Political Action Services staff launched the Community Organizing and Outreach Training Manual for Locals at ETFO’s fall Lobby Training for Presidents session. The manual’s aim is to assist locals to leverage their current community connections and those of members to build public advocacy for public education.
Based on input from locals and member activists who have done work in the area of community outreach, the manual outlines what community outreach can look like depending on the size of the local and offers an action plan to put a member mobilization plan in place. It contains practical resources on: building awareness within the local on the importance of community outreach; bringing education concerns into teacher/educator discussions with families; creating “community ambassadors” among members currently doing community work; and implementing a community newsletter on public education issues.
The website is a natural extension to this work and an excellent resource for locals in their ongoing community engagement efforts.

ETFO Members Engage in the Federal Election
Unions can no longer get involved in federal election campaigns by directly providing support to a political party or candidate; however, ETFO joined other unions in an extensive effort to mobilize members to vote in the October election. The result was an end to the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper, which during its term in office introduced a number of legislative initiatives and policies that undermined unions, progressive women’s organizations and other social justice groups. ETFO supported member engagement by joining with ETFO locals to release members whose role was to mobilize their colleagues to vote and get involved in the election.

Canadian Labour Congress and Ontario Federation of Labour
ETFO continued to support the social justice work of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) with representation on the CLC’s Human Rights, Solidarity and Pride and Political Actioncommittees and working groups. In April, ETFO joined the CLC call for a national ban on asbestos with a media release citing that asbestos in aging school buildings is a leading health concern.
ETFO and its locals sent over 100 delegates to the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) fall convention. They actively participated in discussions and campaigned in the election of new officers including President Chris Buckley, Secretary-Treasurer Patty Coates and Executive Vice-President Ahmad Gaied.
In September, ETFO sent a letter to the Ontario Ministry of Labour supporting the OFL submission to the Ministry’s Changing Workplace Review, which recognizes that economic changes have led to an increase in precarious work and a decline in unionization rates. Non-unionized employees face particularly difficult challenges to finding employment that offers economic security and a workplace environment that respects workers’ rights. In spring, ETFO promoted the OFL-led campaign “Make It Fair” directed at changing Ontario’s outdated labour laws to make them fair for everyone including raising the minimum hourly wage to $15.

Building Community and Solidarity
ETFO took action on a number of community and union campaigns to bring about change and encouraged members to do so as well:
  • In July, ETFO submitted a letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to support the call for universal access to the internet by ACORN, a national anti-poverty organization.
  • In November, ETFO joined calls from labour and non-profit organizations for the federal government to hold public hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In its media release the Federation noted that such trade deals have restricted the government’s ability to regulate in the public interest while at the same time protecting and privileging the interests of multinational corporations.
  • In February, President Hammond spoke at a Fix Our Schools media conference to highlight the fact that the Ontario Ministry of Education has left a $5.8 billion shortfall in funding for school repairs over the last five years. Krista Wylie, executive director for Fix Our Schools, made a presentation to the May Representative Council.
  • In April, ETFO used social media to support Equal Pay Day recognizing that women continue to earn on average 30 per cent less than men according to the Equal Pay Coalition.
    • In May, ETFO took to social media to support 12 Tibetan workers with Fresh Taste Produce at the Ontario Food Terminal, who were on strike for their first collective agreement.
    • In May, President Hammond spoke at a rally organized by the Ontario Autism Coalition on how the loss of Intensive Behavioural Intervention(IBI) services will impact classrooms.

Report to the 2016 Annual Meeting Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, August 2016

Building Better Schools: Working for Safe and Healthy Schools

Safe and Healthy Schools

ETFO members recognize that health, safety and wellness are among the critical factors that lead to professional excellence and student success. ETFO locals and the provincial office continue to support members in their advocacy and action for safer, healthier school communities at every step of the way.

ETFO Action on Violence in Schools
In June 2016, the ETFO provincial Executive passed a motion for ETFO to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the increasing incidence of violence in school workplaces. A staff working group from all service areas worked through the summer and tabled a report with 18 recommendations for action.

In January, ETFO took public leadership and set a positive framework for dealing with the issue. At a media conference, the Federation released a public call to action to address the critical lack of support for students facing serious behavioural issues that can lead to violent incidents in classrooms. ETFO President Sam Hammond was joined by Kawartha Pine Ridge Teacher Local President Shirley Bell and Simcoe County Teacher Local President Janet Bigham who provided local examples of how violent incidents affect students and members.

The call to action was widely reported by Ontario media. The following day, ETFO representatives met with the Ontario Ministers of Education and Labour. The ministers agreed the issue is a priority and committed to work in various ways toward solutions.

ETFO’s Call to Action to Address Violent Incidents

  1. The Ontario government must ensure the necessary funding and resources for special education programs.

  1. A comprehensive community approach to children’s mental health in schools is needed.

  1. The Ministries of Education and Labour must proactively support school board compliance with health and safety legislative and policy requirements and reporting of incidents.

  1. A stronger health and safety culture needs to be built within school boards with increased training provided at all levels.

Multi-Year Strategy to Address Workplace Violence
During the winter, ETFO set up a large cross-service area staff working group and steering committee to implement the multi-year strategy on workplace violence. Work proceeded on all elements of the strategy which include:

  • public relations and lobbying directed at the Ministries of Education and Labour, MPPs, school board and principal organizations to address violent incidents in schools;
  • working with the Ontario Ministries of Education and Labour to improve school board compliance with health and safety legislation and policies;
  • working with Ministry and school board representatives to improve workplace violence reporting and compliance procedures and develop training materials;
  • building an advocacy campaign through ETFO’s Building Better Schools community outreach for review of the education funding formula and more funding for special education; and
  • working with community groups and providers of children’s mental health services to press the government for more support for students with high risk behaviours.
The action plan provides for enhanced education, training and resources for locals and members on reporting and dealing effectively with workplace violence. The training will roll out in 2017-2018.
Action Initiatives
An ETFO Action on Violence in Schools brochure and poster were produced in May summarizing legal and policy requirements, rights to a safe workplace, responsibilities of ETFO members, school boards and principals and support for members. These resources can be accessed at

ETFO provincial continued to work directly with locals and school boards to get resolution on workplace violence issues and to assist locals in Ministry of Labour investigations. Twelve provincial conferences and training events delivered by ETFO staff featured workshops and presentations on workplace violence.

In April, the issue of violence in schools and ETFO’s call to action was discussed at the Federation’s MPP lobby day and was part of the public relations campaign including radio and online advertising.

In June, ETFO held another media conference focused on the urgent need for more front-line supports in elementary classrooms including Kindergarten to reduce violence in schools. ETFO’s advocacy on the issue was strengthened by inviting Kim Moran, Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) to speak on waitlists for children’s mental health services. Other speakers joining ETFO President Sam Hammond included parent Tara Zapreff, who has waited for support services for her child with special needs and Tamara DuFour, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth DECE local. Ontario Autism Coalition Vice-President Laura Kirby-McIntosh also attended to the event.

The media conference was live-streamed across the province. Parents and supporters were asked to lend support and write a letter to the Minister of Education by visiting By July, over 1,000 letters had been sent.

Support for Ontario Autism Coalition
ETFO supported the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) when the Coalition issued an April report calling on the Ontario government to step up support for students with autism and special education needs. In addition to providing staff consultation on the draft report, the Federation issued a media release stating that the government needs to overhaul its funding for special education. It added that improvements must provide for increased front-line support, more educational assistants, more training for teacher candidates and training for staff who work with children on the autism spectrum.

Working with Government for Safe, Healthy Schools

Locally and provincially, ETFO has maintained steady pressure on the Ministries of Education and Labour to more closely coordinate their efforts to ensure safe and healthy schools. In June, the Ministries announced a formal consultation process with the Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety for dealing with workplace violence priorities. The Ministry of Labour announced:

  • a health and safety enforcement initiative on workplace violence in school boards;
  • Ministry of Labour inspectors to receive refresher training on the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requirements in the context of school board workplaces; and
  • in the 2017-2018 year, a Ministry of Labour team will visit each school board to review their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

MOU Task Force on Health and SafetyUpdate
In 2014, the ETFO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety Report set out 22 recommendations. The implementation plan for these recommendations is well underway.

  • ETFO has a research partnership with the University Health Network to develop an online tool for Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) to assess their effectiveness and establish goals for improvement. Made possible through funding from the Ministry of Labour, the project will be useful to organizations within and beyond the education sector. This online tool for JHSCs will be available for use in late 2017.

  • The Ministry of Education is developing a new resource for educators working with students who have challenging behaviours. Intended as a series of modules, the first module is expected in January 2018 and will include the development of safety plans and the sharing of information on student behaviour that may present a risk of harm.
  • ETFO is in consultation with the Ministry of Education regarding the development of guidance resources on environmental issues such as indoor air quality. These resources will be developed by the Ministries of Education and Labour, ETFO and other education stakeholders.

Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety
The Provincial Working Group for Health and Safety came into force as a condition of the ETFO 2014-2017 Memorandum of Understanding. It includes representatives from all four school board agencies, most education sector unions, the Ministry of Education and most recently the Ministry of Labour. The Working Group continues to consult on leading health and safety issues with a primary focus on workplace violence. A subcommittee including ETFO staff developed a flowchart or “Roadmap” of the reporting requirements for workplace violence that includes reporting requirements under three statutes: the Education Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The Roadmap and the development of related resources will contribute to training on violent incident reporting as set out in the ETFO 2017-2019 Extension Agreements and ETFO’s multi-year strategy on workplace violence.

In June, the Ministries of Education and Labour began a formal consultation process with the Provincial Working Group on three priorities for dealing with workplace violence in school communities including:

  • establishing Ministry of Labour guidance materials for workplace parties on the legislated requirements for workplace violence;
  • improving access to information about students with behaviours that may present a risk of harm; and
  • improving reporting requirements for workplace violence including the use of a common reporting tool.

The Provincial Working Group will provide advice on these priorities by January 2018 in order to inform the implementation of next steps within the 2017-2018 school year.

Ministry of Education’s Well-Being Initiative, Advisory Committee
This year, ETFO staff engaged with the Ministry of Education on its new Well-Being Initiative. Staff from Collective Bargaining (CB), Equity and Women’s Services (EWS) and Professional Learning/Curriculum (PL/C) service areas attended a two-day fall event called Partners In Dialogue, part of the Ministry’s province-wide consultation on the issue. Discussions focused on student well-being and professional collaboration, funding and early years/Kindergarten.

ETFO and other education affiliates made it clear that staff well-being must be considered hand-in-hand with student well-being, which the Ministry now acknowledges. ETFO staff continue to work and participate in the Ministry’s Well-Being Initiative including the Well-Being Advisory Committee.

The Well-Being Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from a wide variety of stakeholders including ETFO. Its work is focused on identifying contributing factors to well-being, providing insights on well-being strategies and indicators already in place, and exploring determinants of success. ETFO remains opposed to any measurement of well-being as there are too many variables that impact on a students’ well-being that could change at any time, making any measurement difficult.

Addressing Children’s Mental Health

The need for more supports for children with mental health issues was a constant theme in ETFO’s efforts to address workplace violence. ETFO staff also worked with government and organizations to address the issue of mental health on behalf of both members and students.

Children’s Mental Health Ontario Consultation Meeting
ETFO’s partnership with CMHO began in November when staff from EWS and PL/C attended a September “think tank” hosted by the organization. There was informal discussion among groups including the Catholic Ontario Principals’ Association (COPA), Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), some community agencies, representatives from CMHO and the Hinks-Dellcrest Centre.

The intent was to air common concerns about access to children’s mental health services/supports, inform CMHO’s voice with the government and help align messages among multiple parties. Key points raised included:

  • community agency funding continues to be cut, given that there have been no inflationary increases since before the Harris government days;
  • the fragmentation of services and advocacy;
  • schools being asked to fill the service gap;
  • significant wait lists;
  • the need for tiered and aligned support; and
  • recognition that schools can’t be all things to all students.

Everyday Classroom Mental Health Resource Development
This year, staff from EWS and PL/C worked in partnership with School Mental Health ASSIST and ETFO members to help create an initial pilot for the Everyday Classroom Mental Health. The resource will assist educators with quick and easy strategies and activities related to everyday classroom mental health practices.

Ten ETFO members representing contract, long-term occasional and daily occasional teachers, teachers from each division, special education teachers, English as a second language teachers and DECEs served as the core focus group for this project. Thirty-eight additional members participated in the next level of engagement. Feedback from participants was extremely positive. They highlighted the need for the resource and noted that it assisted them in reducing stress as they worked with students on mental health practices.

The next steps in the refinement and improvement of the resource are currently in discussion as is the release timeline.

Unsafe Working Conditions, Lost Time Injuries

Indoor Air Quality
Access to fresh, clean indoor air at a comfortable temperature helps everyone in the school community to breathe easier and be alert during their school day. Bad indoor air quality can cause or worsen illnesses and medical conditions like asthma.

ETFO worked with members, locals and school boards this year to deal with various issues including:

  • Mould damage that shut down a Thames Valley school for five weeks;
  • September heat stress concerns at schools, prompting an ETFO media release calling on the government to make infrastructure in schools and air conditioning a priority;
  • A work refusal at an Ottawa-Carleton school due to high radon levels; and
  • School board construction projects scheduled during the school day causing dust and fume exposures to staff and students.

Increasingly, indoor air quality is on Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) agendas with requests for more effective heating, ventilation and cooling systems; improved heat stress programs; construction protocols that better protect staff and students from dust and fumes; and updated procedures for dealing with asbestos, chemicals, radon and mould.

High Noise Levels
High noise levels can result in voice and hearing damage and make routine and emergency communication more difficult. High noise levels in some full-day Kindergarten classrooms is an emerging health and safety concern and can also affect speech-language communication and social development.

ETFO staff worked with the Greater Essex Teacher Local to bring attention to high noise levels in Kindergarten classrooms and provided research on what other jurisdictions are doing about the issue. By comparison, Canada and Ontario are lagging behind Britain, Europe and United States in standards for acoustic design of schools. The teacher local successfully encouraged the school board to access Ministry of Education funding for school repairs and renewal to install sound-absorbing materials in some classrooms.

Lost Time Injuries
ETFO members continue to suffer high rates of lost time injuries from events such as violence, falling, being struck by an object, bodily strain and exposure to harmful substances. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) data indicates that “secondary and elementary school teachers and counselors” rank consistently among the occupations with the highest number of allowed lost time injuries in Ontario.

Whether sick leave, WSIB or long-term disability claims, ETFO staff including WSIB experts and locals continue to assist members in navigating reporting processes for injuries and illnesses and ensuring they get the medical attention they need including specialist care.

Advocating for Better Schools
Community Building
As part of ETFO’s effort to build support for its Building Better Schools plan and its equity and social justice objectives, the Federation embarked on a major undertaking focused on community outreach in partnership with ETFO locals. Locals from across the province organized community forums for parents and other community members to discuss issues affecting the classroom and students’ ability to succeed. A number of locals opted to focus their community meeting on student mental health.

In January, Communications and Political Action staff held a training session for 119 representatives from 60 locals on holding community forums. Keynote speakers included Indigenous rights advocate Joyce Hunter and Andrea Van den Heever, Director of Community Organizing Programs with UNITE HERE in Washington, D.C. Case studies of successful community organizing were presented by ETFO members and community groups.

An extensive community forum tool kit was prepared for locals that included electronic materials for promoting forums, social media shareables and ads and meeting aids such as draft presentations, speaking notes and handouts. New NationBuilder software built into the website allowed for database tracking of local forum invites and responses to the event as well as local online promotion of the forum.

The forums successfully linked ETFO locals with parents and community organizations and positioned the Federation as seeking to engage partners and allies to work together for improved school learning and working conditions. Based on these successes, other locals are planning forums for the coming year. A number of locals who held a forum have turned their attention to holding other events, either in different communities or as a second-level discussion with this year’s participants.

Community Organizing Video
ETFO has developed a video entitled Building Communities that Make Change, designed to engage members in community and coalition building for social justice. The video features interviews with leading organizers who share nine key steps on how to reach out to communities. The video will be shared broadly within ETFO locals and with other community organizations and activists as part of ETFO’s contribution to broader equity and social justice work.

ETFO’S Digital Campaign
Throughout the spring, ETFO sponsored a multi-faceted public relations campaign. The campaign included a two-week, province-wide radio ad that promoted the importance of safe and healthy schools and the importance of investing in supports for children with special needs and mental health issues.

The campaign also featured ETFO’s most extensive involvement to date with online advertising and social media. In addition to print ads, the campaign sponsored online ads on special education, class size, EQAO testing and specialist teachers. The ads also promoted ETFO local forums and drove people to ETFO’s redesigned campaign website,

The campaign engaged members, parents and the broader public through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. This online activity contributed to a growing database of engaged members, parents and others, which will support future ETFO public campaigns, both provincially and locally. The campaign has helped raise ETFO’s public profile, fostered a positive view of the union and built support for its policies and objectives. Along with ETFO’s public advocacy work, this work is important for building positive support as the Federation looks ahead to its next round of bargaining.

Queen’s Park Lobbying
This year, ETFO was active inside the halls of Queen’s Park and on the front lawn seeking government action on a number of issues affecting public education, the Federation’s work as a union, and the lives of members and the students in their care.

ETFO participated in legislative hearings on government legislation that introduced new election finance laws, amendments to the Ontario College of Teachers Act andamendments to the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act. In its submission to the pre-budget hearings for the 2017 provincial budget, ETFO profiled its Building Better Schools plan and spoke to how it relates to addressing classroom violence.

In the fall, President Hammond also addressed a rally organized by Fix Our Schools, a parent organization advocating for increased investment in school renovations and repairs.

In April, more than 60 ETFO local leaders from across the province participated in a Queen’s Park lobby day. ETFO representatives interacted with MPPs through formal meetings and during an MPP noon-hour reception. Conversations focused on factors contributing to the growing incidence of classroom violence, particularly the lack of supports for students with special needs and students with mental health issues. The lobby day built on the success of ETFO’s January media conference on classroom violence by again raising the issue’s profile at Queen’s Park.

ETFO Analysis of Education Funding Formula
This year, ETFO worked with economist Hugh Mackenzie to undertake a review of Ontario’s complex education funding formula. The analysis outlines the formula’s shortcomings and how it shortchanges Ontario elementary students. Some highlights:

  • The Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s new 1997 education funding formula was designed to reduce overall spending on elementary and secondary education. Cuts made by the PC government in its first term totalled $1.5 billion or $2.2 billion in today’s dollars.

  • While the Liberal government, elected in 2003, has reinvested in education, its additional investments have gone largely into new programs such as smaller class sizes in grades 1 through 3 and the new full-day Kindergarten program, both of which ETFO supports.
  • Under the 1997 formula, special education funding did not reflect actual student needs at the school board level. That meant that school boards have continued to struggle to support students with special needs.
  • The 1997 benchmarks set for school operation and maintenance were also well below actual costs. That meant that school boards continued to defer maintenance and renovations, which has led to the large number of decaying schools today.
  • The 1997 funding formula redefined “classroom” in a narrow way so that specialist teachers, who supported programs in the arts, health and physical education, design and technology etc. were considered “outside the classroom.” Funding for classroom resources was limited to basic supplies and no longer supported field trips and special enrichment programs like theatre, music or science presentations from outside organizations.

The Liberal government has failed to address many of the original shortcomings of the 1997 funding formula. While the Liberal government promised, in its 2007 election platform, to undertake a review of the funding formula, a formal review has not happened. This means that elementary schools have been dealing with systemic underfunding for a number of issues, including supports for children with special needs and supports for subject areas beyond the basics.

ETFO has persistently pressed the government for funding changes through its lobbying and collective bargaining. While earlier efforts resulted in smaller primary class size, in its 2017-2019 Extension Agreements ETFO negotiated class size caps in Kindergarten, funding to support adherence to the class size average in grades 4 through 8 and an increase in special education supports/staffing.

More needs to be done to improve teaching and learning conditions in elementary classrooms. ETFO will use the education funding research findings to advocate for change as part of its Building Better Schools program in the coming year.

Bargaining for Better Conditions

Negotiating Extension Agreements That Build Better Schools
In September, ETFO was approached by the provincial government about extending the term of current collective agreements set to expire on August 31, 2017. The government affirmed that extension talks would take place without the “net zero” restrictions in place during the 2014 round of collective bargaining and would address a number of ETFO’s 2014 bargaining goals.

Once provincial Executive was satisfied that real improvements to students’ learning conditions and members’ working conditions would form the basis of extension discussions, ETFO began formal negotiations in January. In February, ETFO signed tentative extension agreements – one for teacher and occasional teacher members and one for Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE), Education Support Personnel (ESP) and Professional Support Personnel (PSP) members – with the government, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA).

In March, ETFO members ratified the 2017-2019 Extension Agreements in all-member, double majority online votes. Eighty-one per cent of teacher and occasional teacher voting members voted to accept the Teacher/Occasional Teacher Extension Agreement. Seventy-one per cent of DECE, ESP, PSP and Education Worker voting members voted to accept the Education Worker Extension Agreement.

Highlights of 2017-2019 Extension Agreements
While ETFO’s 2017-2019 Extension Agreements include a 4% salary increase over two years, as well as a 0.5% lump sum payment in the 2017-2018 school year, most of the negotiated funding goes back into schools to provide additional supports for ETFO members and elementary students:

  • ETFO negotiated a full-day Kindergarten (FDK) cap. School boards will still be required to maintain an average FDK class size of 26. Boards must also ensure that at least 90 per cent of their FDK classes contain 30 or fewer students in the 2017-2018 school year, reduced to 29 or fewer students in the 2018-2019 school year. Up to 10 per cent of FDK classes can reach up to 32 students but only if they meet three specific exceptions listed in ETFO’s Extension Agreements;
  • School boards will be required to hire a DECE for all FDK classes in the same school and same track if one of those classes has less than 16 students while at least one other class has more than 30;
  • Currently for grades 4 through 8 classes, most school boards are required to maintain an average class size of no more than 24.5 students. However, 13 public school boards are permitted higher averages of up to 26.4 students. ETFO negotiated an end to this loophole, which means the 13 boards must reduce their grades 4 through 8 class size averages to 24.5 students within five years;
  • ETFO negotiated a $50-million-dollar Special Education System Investment. This fund will be used to hire hundreds of additional permanent elementary Special Education Teachers;
  • The government agreed to create a $39 million Priorities Fund that will be used to hire permanent elementary teachers to support early years special education, Indigenous students, at risk students, student well-being and English language learner students. The Priorities Fund will also provide one day of paid professional learning to ETFO occasional teacher members in each year of the two-year extension agreement;
  • ETFO negotiated a two-million-dollar fund to support paid professional learning for its DECE, ESP and PSP members. An additional Special Education System Investment for ESP and PSP members is designed to prevent layoffs and enhance staffing among special education employees;
  • ETFO ensured that the half-day PA day for health and safety training will continue for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. The focus of the training in every school board will be violent incident reporting;
  • Job security language for DECE, ESP and PSP members has been extended to August 30, 2019;
  • All daily occasional teacher daily rates will be tied to the corresponding teacher salary grid. Being tied to the teacher salary grid is cost neutral at this time. In future rounds of bargaining, however, it will mean boards would no longer have discretion about providing teacher salary increases to occasional teachers; it would be mandatory for school boards to do so;
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) created and/or revised within the first 30 instructional days of the school year shall serve as the IEP update and distribution for the progress report card; and
  • All local collective agreement entitlements, including superior provisions, are preserved. Expiry dates for letters of understanding in local collective agreements are automatically extended to August 31, 2019.

ETFO is proud to have negotiated improvements in these Extension Agreements that will build better schools and benefit everyone in the education sector.

From Negotiation to Implementation: Provincial Collective Bargaining Conference
It can be challenging to put into action what negotiators agree to at the bargaining table. To ensure that local leaders have the knowledge and skills necessary to put the 2017-2019 Extension Agreements’ terms into operation, the focus of ETFO’s 2017 Provincial Collective Bargaining Conference was on implementation and enforcement.

The April conference provided training opportunities for almost 250 local leaders on a variety of issues specific to collective bargaining. All participants attended extended training sessions facilitated by Collective Bargaining Services staff on how to work effectively with school boards in order to implement and enforce recently negotiated terms during extension agreement discussions.

Bill 115 Remedy Discussions
In April 2016, ETFO and other unions won a major victory at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The Superior Court concluded the provincial government violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it enacted unprecedented legislation in 2012 called the Putting Students First Act (or Bill 115) that stripped teachers and other education workers of their right to engage in free and fair collective bargaining.

Following the Superior Court decision, ETFO held many meetings with the government’s team to negotiate an appropriate remedy with the provincial government to compensate for the losses incurred by members due to Bill 115.

Between April 2016 and June 2017, nine CB eNewsletters were issued to members to provide updates on the remedy discussions. Four all-member telephone town halls were held in October. Lawyer Howard Goldblatt, who represented ETFO during the Bill 115 Charter challenge, provided participants with an overview of the Superior Court’s 85-page decision and reviewed its implications for Bill 115 remedy discussions. ETFO’s president and general secretary answered members’ questions about both the Bill 115 remedy and the possibility of talks with the government to extend ETFO’s 2014-2017 Collective Agreements.

In May, local presidents and chief negotiators attended a special meeting and strategic discussion with the provincial Executive about remedy negotiations. At its meeting in June, provincial Executive members considered additional input provided by local leaders.

At a follow-up town hall with local leaders, provincial Executive shared its decision that what the government was offering in terms of remedy was not acceptable and that ETFO was referring the issue back to the Superior Court.

The provincial Executive’s decision was premised on the fact that an appropriate remedy had not been arrived at between the Federation and the government. The government’s offer in no way met the principle of suitable restitution for the losses suffered by ETFO members. Provincial Executive believed that the government’s offer of pennies on the dollar was not an appropriate remedy for the strips to members’ collective agreements and the loss of their bargaining rights, including loss of the right to strike. Because there was no tentative remedy reached, ETFO did not bring the issue back to its members for a vote.

The issue of remedy was referred back to the Superior Court in June. ETFO and the government will prepare submissions to argue the case before the court.

The New ETFO Employee Life and Health Trust Benefits Plan
In accordance with the provisions of ETFO’s Central Bargaining Agreements, the Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) Benefits Plan was established November 1, 2016 for eligible teachers, long-term occasional teachers, DECE, ESP and PSP members. Coverage in the benefits plan includes health and dental, basic life and accidental death and dismemberment for eligible members.

Locals transitioned into the ETFO ELHT on a staggered basis over the 2016-2017 school year. All locals transitioned into the Trust between November and June. Eligible retirees are anticipated to transition into the ELHT after November 1, 2017.

Manulife is the insurance carrier and the Ontario Teachers’ Insurance Plan (OTIP) is the third party administrator for the benefits plan. It is responsible for answering members’ questions on a daily basis related to coverage, claims and general administrative inquiries related to benefits. Enrolled members are able to access plan documents, online claims functions and their benefits profile on OTIP’s secure member portal. Additional information, including Frequently Asked Questions, is available on the ETFO website at

An ELHT Board of Trustees is responsible for the operational and financial sustainability of the Trust and for administering the plan.The Board is comprised of nine voting members consisting of five ETFO-appointed trustees and four Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and Crown-appointed trustees.

School boards are required under the MOU to provide a plan for daily occasional teachers if these members had access to benefits prior to the formation of the ELHT.
Driving Labour Action
Union Solidarity With OFL
ETFO lent its support to a number of labour and social issues headed by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and its partners. ETFO leaders participated in an OFL media conference calling on the government to support an NDP private member’s bill on paid employment leave for victims of workplace and domestic violence. ETFO President Hammond was also part of a show of force from union leaders at a media event calling for an increased minimum wage, decent jobs and moving forward with the government’s Changing Workplaces Review.

ETFO mobilized attendance in support of a number of labour and community organizations’ Queen’s Park rallies. These included events focused on the importance of a $15 an hour minimum wage, decent work, supporting women’s rights and combatting climate change. In May, ETFO’s delegation to the 2017 Canadian Labour Congress convention took to the streets to support the OFL rally for a “fair future” which includes decent work, a $15 an hour minimum wage, the right to join a union, challenging sexism, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia and championing equity, social justice and a green economy.

Canadian Labour Congress
One hundred and thirty-one ETFO delegates took part in the Canadian Labour Congress Convention (CLC) in Toronto in May, joining 4,000 delegates from across Canada. The theme of the convention was “Together for a #FAIRFUTURE,” with the daily focuses being fairness, equity, green jobs, organizing and education. Guest speakers included Mary Walsh, Candy Palmater, Cindy Blackstock, and Rachel Notley. There were special presentations on the Westray mine disaster and murdered and missing Indigenous women. Elections took place with Hassan Yussuff acclaimed as president, Marie Clarke Walker elected as secretary-treasurer and Donald LaFleur and Larry Rousseau elected as executive vice-presidents.

Supporting Unions and Educators Worldwide
Workers at 24 offices of the Canadian Hearing Society across Ontario went on strike in March after working for four years without a contract. These CUPE 2073 members provide vital services to the deaf, deafened, orally deaf and hard of hearing community. Ninety per cent are women and 40 per cent come from the deaf and hard of hearing community themselves.

ETFO members across the province joined picket lines and supported the strike. ETFO President Sam Hammond confirmed in an April letter of support to CUPE that provincial Executive had approved a $5,000 donation to the local’s strike fund. The strike was settled in May.

On the international front, ETFO sent letters to the following during the year:

  • the President of the United Mexican States, to release all jailed union leaders, reverse the political mass firing of thousands of teachers and enter into free and open negotiations following the death of six teachers and two parents during protests to defend public education;

  • the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada, requesting that the Turkish government reverse the widespread and unjust punishment of over 15,000 Turkish teachers who were suspended en masse; and

  • the Colombian Federation of Education (FECODE) workers who faced many attempts at intimidation during their national strike including a bomb attack that damaged their headquarters in May. ETFO’s letter echoed the FECODE call for government security measures to protect the integrity of Colombian teachers and their leaders.

Building a More Just Society
In response to world events this year, including the tragic loss of life of worshippers at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in January, ETFO and its members took to social media and to the streets to stand up for equity and social justice. ETFO was a contributing sponsor of the January Women’s Marches held in Toronto and Ottawa where marchers joined millions around the world to make their voices heard. The Federation also called on members to join civil rights, labour, faith, anti-racist and student groups at the National Days of Action Against Islamophobia and Deportations held in early February.

Facebook Statement from ETFO President Sam Hammond
“We cannot just sit back in disbelief and allow the policies of Donald Trump and others to fan the flames of division, exclusion and hatred in the United States and around the world including Canada. We cannot allow decades of progress to advance women’s rights and the human rights of all people to become unfastened by the actions of the U.S. president.

“ETFO, its members and activists from across the labour movement have dedicated our efforts to fighting racism and anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination against all people. That work must not be undone.

Report to the 2017 Annual Meeting Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, August 2017
  1. ^ ETFO; Report to the Annual Meeting, August 2008