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Sharon O'Halloran posing at ETFO headquarters

Despite the Challenges Ahead, Our Resolve Remains Unshakeable

Sharon O'Halloran

On February 12, the Ontario Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that Bill 124 was an unconstitutional attack on workers’ rights, marking a pivotal moment in ETFO’s fight for free and fair collective bargaining. Under Bill 124, the government had imposed strict caps on public sector compensation increases, undermining the collective bargaining process for educators and other public sector workers. Shortly after the ruling, the government announced that it will not pursue further appeals and repealed the legislation. Through advocacy efforts led by ETFO and other unions, educators challenged the legislation and won. Our success serves as a testament to the power of collective action and solidarity and underscores the importance of unions and other advocacy groups to safeguarding the rights and democratic protections of workers.

As part of the 2022-2026 central agreements, ETFO secured additional salary increases for ETFO members as remedy for the first two years Bill 124 was in effect. The parties could not agree on a remedy amount for the third year, so this issue was referred to arbitration. On February 9, Arbitrator William Kaplan issued his decision, awarding ETFO members an additional 2.75 percent compensation increase for 2021-2022. The total wage increase for the 2019-2022 period is 7.25 percent. Compounded, the total increase is 7.41 percent. ETFO is currently waiting for an additional arbitration hearing that will rule on wage increases for each of the four years in the 2022-2026 central agreement, including the 2022-2023 school year. For full details, answers to your questions and to stay up to date on the remedy process please go to and make sure you are subscribed to the CB newsletter.

While ETFO made significant gains for our members and our students in this round of central negotiations, like all rounds of collective bargaining we were not able to achieve everything our public schools need and our students deserve. Although frustrating, this is a normal part of the bargaining process, gains are often incremental and it can take time to address all concerns. This is particularly true when we have a government that has a track record of not listening to education experts and stakeholders.

Importantly, ETFO came out of central bargaining with a commitment from the Ministry of Education and OPSBA to consider solutions for key issues in education. ETFO was able to secure a number of new workgroups including one that addresses much needed supports for students.

In addition, ETFO was also able to negotiate a new workgroup to address violence in schools and a commitment from the government and OPSBA to work with ETFO to revise PPM 128: The Provincial Code of Conduct and School Board Codes of Conduct before the beginning of the 2024-25 school year. Understanding that violence in schools is a high priority coming out of this round of bargaining and an urgent issue for ETFO members, the goal of these revisions is to explicitly address increasing violence and to establish clear expectations for everyone in the school community.

ETFO is committed to addressing this issue through all the channels available to us and will continue to work for stronger anti-violence policies, increased support for mental health and other resources, and proactive measures to foster a culture of respect and inclusion in schools. Our commitment to equity means understanding that students need appropriate and dedicated supports to be successful and our members deserve to feel safe and respected at work.

As we reflect on the Bill 124 victory and on a difficult round of bargaining, which for a number of locals is still ongoing, we are reminded of the remarkable power of unity, solidarity and perseverance. Despite the challenges ahead, our resolve remains unshakeable. ETFO will continue advocating for positive change, knowing that our efforts pave the way for a better, more equitable public education system. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with, and together, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of educators and students alike.

– Sharon O’Halloran