ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
WATERLOO REGION OCCASIONAL TEACHER LOCAL
PROVINCIAL TAKEOVER BULLETIN #6
October 26, 2012
A Message from President Hammond to ETFO Members:
Update on Meeting with Minister of Education
Fellow ETFO Members,
General Secretary Gene Lewis and I met with the Minister of Education and her staff on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. I’d like to share what happened during that meeting with you.
Minister Broten: Bill 115 is here to stay
The Minister began the meeting by stating the government has no intention of repealing or changing Bill 115. She suggested we put that “issue” aside and talk about a long-term plan to develop a better relationship. The Minister indicated that, for example, both she and the government want to re-engage ETFO in Ministry of Education consultations and workgroup tables.
I was very frank with the Minister. I let her know that the “issue” she had just summarily dismissed – Bill 115 – is at the very core of why ETFO and the government have not been able to have meaningful conversations. Bill 115 threatens the democratic rights of ETFO members. Bill 115 is the reason why tens of thousands of ETFO members are protesting across the province. Bill 115 is the reason why ETFO has taken strike votes and has received the highest strike mandates in its history. I advised the Minister that if she and her government were not prepared to repeal Bill 115, or even enter into meaningful discussions about how to resolve the issues created by the Bill, then ETFO would not be returning to any Ministry workgroups.
I reminded the Minister that ETFO and our members had supported her government since it was elected. ETFO members played a key role in their re-election in October 2011. Then the government’s attitude changed during Provincial Discussion Table talks in February 2012. If the Minister had wanted to engage in truly collaborative and meaningful discussion at that time, things may have gone in a different direction. Instead, she sent three insolvency lawyers with no understanding of the education sector to do her dirty work.
A Lesson for the Minister about Progress Reports
Minister Broten acknowledged the government knows how angry ETFO members are about Bill 115 but said she was very disappointed about ETFO’s “direction” about the preparation of “report cards” (her words) and the withdrawal of voluntary activities.
The General Secretary and I gave the Minister of Education a detailed lesson about the history of the “Progress Report” and how it differs from report cards, as well as an overview of her own Ministry’s policy document, Growing Success. We also reviewed the nature of the word “voluntary” with her and noted that ETFO members are making their own decisions about what they do outside of their professional responsibilities, not ETFO.
Letting the Minister Know About the Negative Impact of Bill 115 on ETFO Members
The Minister was reminded her government has taken tens of thousands of dollars out of ETFO members’ pockets and limited their ability to take care of their families.
For the first time, the Minister admitted that what the government has done to ETFO members goes well beyond zero salary increases over two years. But she also insisted the new sick leave plan was superior to what ETFO members have lost, i.e., 20 sick days with an accumulation of unused days.
You can likely imagine how well we received the Minister’s opinion about the new sick leave plan. I described the OECTA sick leave provisions as an absolute mess, with school boards having difficulty implementing them in a coherent manner. It was obvious that the Minister had no idea about the real impact of Bill 115 on our members, and so we provided her with information about the desperate situation that three ETFO members now find themselves in due to the elimination of sick leave days they accumulated over 15-30 years. Thousands of our members are, or will be, facing similar difficulties.
Minister Must Accept Responsibility for Chaos in Public Education
A good deal of time was spent discussing collective bargaining issues. I told the Minister that, like ETFO, many school boards feel they are in a very difficult situation at the bargaining table because of the government’s interference in the collective bargaining process.
The General Secretary and I concluded our conversation with the Minister by letting her know ETFO is always ready to talk with the government and also intends to bargain in good faith with school boards. However, if bargaining is going to consist of stapling the OECTA MOU to existing collective agreements, then negotiations have little chance of succeeding and strike action is likely; the Minister must accept responsibility for the current climate of chaos and its impact on the public education system.
I will continue to keep you informed of any further discussion with the government.
Thank you for your solidarity, your support, and your continued efforts to oppose Bill 115.