The worth of this solidarity has been on display recently. Through lengthy negotiations with the Liberal government, the ETFO has reached a new deal. The agreement is still tentative, but could go a long way toward securing ETFO members the respect they deserve.
The deal would freeze wages, but when the next contract rolls around, ETFO teachers would be entitled to a 2% raise, at a minimum. The 2% hike in the next contracts will go to redress a long-standing wage disparity between ETFO members at public school boards and teachers at other school boards. The wages of ETFO members is presently 2% lower than their counterparts working in the French and Roman Catholic school boards.
Of course, this is a ludicrous situation. The value of a teacher is the capacity to educate, to mentor, to inspire. A teacher’s value does not flow from the language of instruction or from religious affiliation. To hold otherwise is to condemn public school teachers to a second-class status among their peers. Finally, the government is seeing that such inequitable valuations are an embarassment to the education sector. Education Minister Liz Sandals has admitted that there is no good public policy reason for this difference and has stated the difference will be corrected by the next contracts in September, 2014.
Under the new deal ETFO members would also receive an enhanced retirement gratuity, would see an increase in maternity leave from 6 weeks to 8 weeks, and the creation of a health and safety task force.
Ms. Sandals hopes this new development will help to repair a relationship with the education sector that some believed had been irreparably damaged by the passage of Bill 115. This may in fact be a step in the right direction. Despite injustices perpetrated the Liberals over the past year, the unions have come to the table and negotiated with the government in good faith. Though the Liberals are aware of the damage they’ve done to labour relations with teachers, they have sldo been made aware of the reasonableness of the unions. By negotiating with the government the unions have demonstrated a desire to come to an understanding that the government may not have had any right to expect. Some may call this taking the high road. Whatever you call it, it certainly looks like the ETFO are doing what’s right not just by its members, but by the Ontario public as well.