Ontario's early learning initiative has opened the
educational system to an influx of new professionals. Before this
Fall, only a very few Ontario school boards employed early
childhood educators (ECEs). As of September 2010, all boards do.
This Fall, in nearly 600 Ontario schools, teachers and ECEs are
working together throughout each school day to offer full-day
kindergarten programs. This number will increase as the program is
phased-in. In addition to the full-day kindergarten initiative,
ECEs are now employed in many school boards to provide integrated
before-and after-school programs within elementary schools.
This influx of ECEs into the educational system presents
interesting labour relations issues. This is because the great
majority of school boards (all but approximately 8 of them) had not
established salary grids or other terms and conditions of
employment for ECEs until very recently.
In some boards, ECEs will fall within existing bargaining units
commonly referred to as "all employee" units, for which
collective agreements for 2008- 2012 have already been signed. In
those boards, it will be important to ensure that existing
collective agreement terms respecting hours of work and other
working conditions are appropriate, or, if they are not, to
negotiate collective agreement amendments or a letter of
understanding which will allow ECEs to perform their duties.
The Ministry of Education has facilitated a framework within
which boards can accomplish this goal. A Provincial Discussion
Table (PDT) Agreement was signed between the four trustee
associations and the five trade unions which, as at June 24, 2010,
held representation rights for one or more ECE groups within the
province. The province agreed to fund a "Qualifications and
Experience" (Q&E) grid, over and above its salary
benchmark for ECE salaries (set at $19.48 per hour). School boards
with unionized ECEs represented by the Association des enseignantes
et des enseignants franco-ontariens, the Canadian Office and
Professional Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public
Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers'
Federation (OSSTF) and the Service Employees International Union
may access this Q&E grant by entering an agreement (a) to pay
ECEs according to a salary grid specified in the PDT Agreement, and
(b) ensuring that full-time ECEs are offered at least 194 working
days per school year.
The fact that an agreement is required effectively provides an
opportunity for boards to ensure that the terms and conditions of
employment contained in any applicable collective agreement are
appropriate for this new employee group.
In boards where ECEs do not fit within existing bargaining
structures, there has been a flurry of union organizing activity.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), OSSTF,
CUPE and other groups are conducting organizing campaigns seeking
to represent ECEs. ETFO has filed an application with the Ontario
Labour Relations Board, alleging that the Ministry of Education,
all the province's school boards and its four trustee
associations committed an unfair labour practice when the PDT
Agreement was signed because ETFO was not involved in the
discussions leading to that agreement.
School boards, where new collective agreements are negotiated
specifically for ECEs, will have access to the Q&E grant upon
entering an agreement with a union which is a party to the PDT
Agreement, under which they commit to placing ECEs on the salary
grid specified in the PDT Agreement.
Eric Roher and I were participants at the discussions which led
to the PDT Agreement. If you have any questions about the PDT
Agreement, or about how it might apply in your particular context,
please feel free to contact either of us.
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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