The ETFO Restores Extracurriculars

Convinced of the commitment of the
governing Liberals to tackle issues important to members of the Elementary
Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) in a spirit of good faith, the ETFO is
advising teachers to resume their provision of extracurricular activities for

The ETFO had suspended extracurricular
activities in response to the infamously repressive Putting Students First Act, which the Ontario Liberals had enacted
to restrict union bargaining rights and impose on the teachers various cuts to
sick days and a wage cut in the form of unpaid development days.

Once Kathleen Wynne assumed leadership
of the provincial Liberal Party talks that had been suspended by the PSFA under Dalton McGuinty resumed. The
Globe and Mail reports that these renewed talks are purported to focus on
protecting the bargaining rights of the teachers[1].
The unions are giving the new Premier a chance to prove she’s not a carbon copy
of her predecessor. They are giving her a chance to prove she has an interest
in respecting the rights of the working men and women of this province. While
nothing concrete has so far been made public to suggest Ms. Wynne will be a
friend to organized labour, the talks may yet confirm the hope that she intends
to relate to organized labour fairly.

Of course, dead set against anything
that might benefit unions, the Ontario Conservatives are charging that Ms.
Wynne must have given the ETFO some kind of preferential treatment. Otherwise,
the Conservatives argue, the ETFO would not have restored extracurricular
activities. Kathleen Wynne, however, stated that there are no special deals and
that the discussions have been focused largely on what the “…collective
bargaining process will look like going forward.”[2]
Are the Conservatives so jaded that they cannot believe a union would restore
extracurriculars in a spirit of good faith while negotiations are proceeding?
Or do the Conservatives believe there is so little reason to respect the rights
of a union to be involved in discussions regarding its future, that the only
way the discussions could be progressing well enough for the ETFO to restore
extracurriculars would be if there is some sort of backroom deal brewing? It
seems that, with few exceptions, politicians in this province have been too
busy viewing unions with their own biases to see clearly.  

Throughout this process the ETFO has masterfully balanced protection of the rights of its
members with the union’s interests in negotiating with the government. In suspending
extracurricular activities until it could be assured that the government was
willing to negotiate in good faith, the ETFO sent a clear message that it would
not be lured in by promises that could have proved empty.

All of the teachers unions in Ontario
have at once responded to the terrible powers exercised by the McGuinty
Liberals with united opposition and an impressive reasonableness in managing
their ongoing negotiations with Kathleen Wynne. If this government has more
sense than its predecessor, the good faith and respect displayed by the unions
will be met in kind.

There is a workable solution to the
problems between the government and the teachers’ unions and ETFO’s recent
decision to restore extracurriculars may be one of many steps toward a peaceful
resolution to these tensions. 

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