Teachers ratify central agreement


By Barb McKay


The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has reached an agreement with the province and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and it is now up to union locals to negotiate with their school boards.


The union announced Friday that 98 per cent of teacher and occasional teacher locals voted to ratify the central agreement.


“It does not include everything we wanted, but that’s the reality of bargaining,” ETFO Bluewater president Julie Stanley told The Independent Friday. “Sometimes you take small steps.”


As part of the agreement, the ETFO, school boards and the Ministry of Education will collectively develop recommendations on how to better support students with special needs. There will also be a review of full-day kindergarten staffing and class sizes and a similar review for Grades 4 to 8. Boards are expected to make every effort to avoid kindergarten and Grade 1 split classes.


Going forward, collective agreements will include the right for teachers to use their own judgment in assessing students’ learning needs. Recommendations from a health and safety task force related to student and teacher safety will be implemented by school boards and occasional teachers will be given classroom keys to ensure staff and student safety during lockdowns.


Stanley said the members would have liked to have seen a stronger commitment on classroom sizes and educational assistant staffing levels, but progress has been made.


“There’s hope that these are beginning steps and hopefully some of that will be addressed in the next agreement.”


The union locals will need to negotiate agreements with their individual school boards and Bluewater is expected to sit down with the Bluewater District School Board on Nov. 23. Stanley said it is not guaranteed that an agreement will be reached that day.


“Bargaining is not always a quick process. We have been without a contract since August 2014. We’re hopeful; everyone would like to get an agreement.”