GETTING STARTED: BARGAINING ISSUES EXPLAINED
ETFO’s all member central survey will include questions about a number of wide-ranging issues. Some of those issues impact on all ETFO members; some are specific to the type of work performed by an ETFO member as a teacher, occasional teacher, DECE, ESP or PSP.
What follows is a quick explanation of a few of the issues that have appeared as ETFO bargaining goals in a number of previous rounds of bargaining.
The benefits of smaller class size are well documented in the research literature. But no ETFO member who has ever faced a room of 35 Junior or Intermediate students’ needs to consult the research to understand how important manageable class sizes are to achieving meaningful learning.
While ETFO has made progress in reducing primary class size, setting caps on FDK classes and correcting discrepancies between school boards around Grades 4-8 average class size, our data indicates that class size is still a major obstacle to creating optimal teaching and learning conditions, particularly in the junior and intermediate divisions and in FDK.
Smaller class sizes are important because:
- They allow for the kind of extra attention to individual students that all teachers would like to be able to provide. They increase the teacher’s ability to connect in a meaningful way with each child.
- The demands upon the system – at both the Ministry and the board levels – have been increasing, not decreasing. The curriculum continues to be challenging, particularly for teachers with combined grades. Student assessment and reporting processes have increased in both number and complexity.
- Smaller classes mean a higher ratio of adults to children in the classroom and in schools. This translates into safer and more secure learning environments, both within individual classrooms and within schools generally.
- Research links smaller class sizes in the early years with a range of more favourable academic and social outcomes later on, including increased graduation rates.
Health and Safety
In previous rounds of collective bargaining, ensuring that members work in a safe and healthy environment has been an important bargaining goal for ETFO. As a result, issues like improved infection prevention, better indoor air quality and the elimination of asbestos in schools have been the subject of advocacy and bargaining by ETFO both provincially and between ETFO locals and individual school boards.
Currently, one of the most significant health and safety issues affecting ETFO members concerns workplace violence, workplace harassment and serious student incidents. Many school boards fall short of legislative and policy requirements to protect ETFO members. These shortfalls mean that ETFO members are placed in dangerous situations and can be seriously injured at work. ETFO’s DECE, ESP and PSP members are particularly vulnerable to the risk of harm from students with a history of violent behaviour due to:
· The failure of some school boards to provide adequate information about students with a history of violent behaviour through mechanisms like safety plans; and
· The lack of information, instruction and training about the related workplace violence program related to a student with a history of violent behaviour.
In January 2017, ETFO issued a “Call to Action to Address Violent Incidents in Schools.” The Call to Action makes recommendations to the government for stronger funding and resources for special education, a comprehensive approach to supporting children’s mental health, better training around health and safety, and proactive supports from both the Ministries of Education and Labour to assure that legislation around health and safety is complied with by school boards. More information about our Call to Action can be found on ETFO’s Health and Safety website.
Pregnancy and Parental Leave
Pregnancy and parental leave improvements have been a priority for ETFO for many years. As an organization that is predominately female, the issues of pregnancy leave, supplemental employment benefits (SEB), parental leave entitlements, extended parental leave provisions and job protection have been extremely important to our members and their families.
ETFO has been successful in bargaining improved pregnancy and parental provisions in both central and local bargaining in previous years, including:
- provisions that address a mother’s/parent’s right to take leave from work, job protection and earnings replacement;
- an minimum eight week SEB top up available to ETFO’s female members (birthmothers); and
- agreements that allowed ETFO’s long term occasional and hourly paid members who work more than 26 hours per week to access SEB.
Even with these successes, there is still much work to be done in the area of improving pregnancy and parental leave benefits for ETFO members. Other sectors (e.g., nursing, police services, fire fighters, colleges and universities, Ontario public service employees, etc.) have far superior top-up entitlements that are not restricted to the birth mother but can often be accessed by either parent.
The Funding Gap in Elementary Education
In August 2017, ETFO released a report called “Shortchanging Ontario’s Students: An Overview and Assessment of Education Funding in Ontario.” ETFO’s report revealed that the province spends $612 less per year on an elementary students’ education in comparison to the education of a secondary student. This funding gap is long-standing and not based on student needs.
For the elementary panel, the funding gap means: larger class sizes in elementary than in secondary schools; fewer specialist teachers (e.g., music, guidance, art, teacher librarian, etc.) for elementary students, fewer supports for students with special needs, fewer resources for teachers to plan and prepare (e.g., elementary teachers have significantly less preparation time than their secondary counterparts).
Addressing the funding gap between elementary and secondary has been an ETFO goal in previous bargaining rounds.
Elementary teachers want to concentrate on teaching. But the demands of today’s classroom are placing a huge burden on teachers’ time and distracting from their core priority, which is the individual student.
Workload an issue that directly affects the quality of education elementary teachers are able to deliver for their students. Already, elementary school teachers spend hours outside of classroom time preparing lessons, marking assessments, supervising at recess or lunch hour and doing any number of other activities related to their jobs. With the increased emphasis on assessment and evaluation today from both the Ministry of Education and school boards, negotiating time for student assessment or increased preparation time are critical issues for many ETFO members.
Teaching Principals and Vice-Principals
In virtually every school board in the province (except York Region District School Board), vice-principals and principals are assigned teaching duties.
Data from the Ministry of Education reveal that approximately 380 teaching positions were filled by principals and vice principals in the 2013-14 school year, rather than by teachers. The money to fund teaching principals and vice-principals comes out of the funding formula line which is meant to fund classroom teachers.
There is no doubt these assignments have a detrimental impact on the quality of education provided to Ontario’s elementary students.
School administrators with teaching responsibilities are challenged by their divided role. It is not uncommon for teaching principals and vice-principals to shut down student programming to attend to urgent matters that arise within the school. That means students don’t get the instruction and support they need.
In addition, when school administrators spend part of their time teaching, they are less able to concentrate on many important administrative functions. Sometimes this can mean downloading an administrator’s responsibilities onto school staff.
Experience Credit for all Occasional Teaching Work
Credited experience for occasional teaching work varies significantly from board to board. Some boards grant only internal experience, some give no credit for daily casual work, some give pro-rated credit for daily casual work. Other boards give credit for all teaching experience and some give credit for related work as well.
ETFO’s position in previous bargaining rounds is that all occasional teaching experience – daily, short-term and long-term — is valuable and deserves the same recognition for experience credit purposes.
Paid Time for Professional Training
Over the course of a year there could be many new initiatives or implementation changes in existing curricula with which ETFO occasional teacher members must implement in classrooms.
However, occasional teachers are often not allowed to access board-sponsored professional learning activities designed to assist permanent teachers with the implementation of new initiatives. If they are allowed to attend it is often on their own time. Attendance at sessions held during the instructional day means that the OT must forgo a day’s work to gain the professional knowledge needed to do their jobs.
The lack of paid professional learning for occasional teachers means that instruction is not implemented as effectively as it could be.
Related Credit Experience for DECE Members
ETFO’s Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECEs) have entered employment with school boards from a wide variety of other institutions that offer child care and early education programs. The knowledge, experience and skill that DECEs with experience bring to the Kindergarten education program should be acknowledged by recognizing this experience and compensating them appropriately.
Professional Activity Time
Professional activity is a highly valued and necessary tool for ETFO’s DECE members. It often represents the only time during the instructional day when DECEs have some control over their schedule in order to engage in professional activities. Not many DECE local collective agreement includes professional activity time. Even when the collective agreement does provide for professional activity time, principals have the right to either direct or approve a DECE member’s use of this time.
Obtaining predictable blocks of professional activity time over which DECE members have more control has been a goal for ETFO in previous rounds of bargaining.
Paid Training During the Instructional Day for Specialized Job Assignments
ETFO’s ESP and PSP members don’t receive paid training during the instructional day to assist them in meeting the needs of their specialized job assignments. The training is important and necessary to provide the best learning environment for students. For example, some students have needs that require specialized equipment in order to meet curriculum requirements and/or to attend school. Often these students are supported by ESP and PSP workers, who do not receive the paid training required that would make it easier for them to fulfil their professional obligations to students.