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Bargaining and Agreements
The Importance of Collective Agreements
As a teacher, you are a member of one of the most highly regulated occupations in the province. From the Education Act to the Teaching Profession Act to the College of Teachers Act, your chosen profession is hemmed in on all sides by dozens of statutes, regulations, and guidelines.
Your local collective agreement is a treasure chest full of rights, entitlements, and protection against arbitrary treatment.
Protecting Salary and Working Conditions
Here are just a few job-related items which would be in jeopardy without collective bargaining:
Your Salary It is not set by law. In fact, teachers are exempt from the law which provides minimum wage protection to most other workers in this province. The fact that your salary rises each year, and that there is an experience grid which causes it to rise even further in your first ten or so years of teaching, is due to collective bargaining.
Your Insured Benefits The coverage you receive for prescription glasses, prescription drugs, dental services, hearing aids, and semi-private hospital room care is negotiated at the bargaining table. So, too, is your life insurance policy and your long-term disability coverage.
Your Sick Leave Entitlement Your employer is not obligated to provide paid time off when you are sick – unless the collective agreement stipulates otherwise. By the same token, any retirement gratuity that you may receive as a result of banked sick leave is only there because your negotiators fought for it at the bargaining table.
The Way You Spend Your Work Day The general framework in the Education Act with respect to school day and student instructional time leaves wide scope for collective bargaining. Therefore, your collective agreement can cover the instructional day, preparation time, supervision time, and an overall limit to the working day.
The Way Jobs Are AllocatedFor teachers, transfer, seniority, and lay-off provisions are all subject to collective bargaining. So, too, are the rights of part-time teachers. For occasional teachers, the size of the call-out list, the right to remain on the list, the system of call-out, and the posting and allocation of long-term positions are all bargainable items.
Protection From Arbitrary Discipline One of the most important parts of your collective agreement is your “just cause” clause. Without it, your job tenure would be much less secure; your employer would be able to discharge or discipline you far more easily.
An Evolving Process
Collective bargaining is an ongoing process which continually evolves, gaining more protections and better working conditions for education workers over time.
Collective bargaining fills in gaps in existing laws. In addition to covering specific areas where teachers are not protected by law (such as minimum wage and maximum hours of work), your collective agreement can give you additional protection beyond the basics already provided by human rights law and occupational health and safety legislation. For example, some bargainers have begun to incorporate provisions to help protect teachers from communicable diseases in the workplace (such as Fifth Disease).
Collective bargaining is flexible enough to respond to changing realities. When provincially-mandated report cards were introduced a few years ago, bargainers responded by beginning to build protections into collective agreements. For example, some teachers now have ample notice of report card deadlines, and time set aside for the completion of report cards. Some long-term occasional teachers now have paid time to complete report cards after their assignments have ended.
Your collective agreement is a document with a history.It is the product of years of patient negotiating on the part of your local ETFO bargainers. The struggle to provide the best possible compensation and working conditions for ETFO members never ends. Once a concept is bargained into the agreement – such as preparation time – it is improved upon and strengthened in subsequent rounds of bargaining.
Conclusion: Take Ownership of Your Collective Agreement
Each and every ETFO member has a stake in reading and understanding the agreement, and in supporting the local bargaining process.
Your principal, superintendents, and trustees may be well-intentioned individuals committed to helping you do your job. But good intentions are no substitute for the negotiated, legally-enforceable document that unambiguously sets forth your rights in the workplace.
In short, collective bargaining protects your rights as an education worker. Read your collective agreement today.
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