Skip to main content
Karen Brown posing at ETFO headquarters

Strong Women Mentors are the Backbone of ETFO

Karen Brown

I want to begin this final column of the year with a thank you to all the educators who have made such a tremendous impact on public schools and students this year. Whenever we connect with parents at ETFO, we hear how grateful they are to the educators who are in classrooms with their children every day. Educators have the power to change the lives of students for the better. I want to recognize you for the incredible work that you do.

Your work happens despite chronic systemic underfunding, large classes, lack of special education and mental health supports, staffing crises in many school boards, fewer professionals and paraprofessionals in our schools, and not enough professional learning opportunities. These are just some of the issues that make our work advocating for additional resources and supports for students and educators so important.

In May, local leaders and your provincial Executive had a lobby day at Queen’s Park to speak with members of provincial parliament about violence in our schools. We know that violence is an expression of needs that are going unmet and that, like many other issues in our schools, they can be addressed if the government makes the necessary investments.

The solutions to these complex problems are known and within grasp. We need investment in resources and supports for students and educators. We need smaller classes, access to timely assessments and more professionals and paraprofessionals in our schools. Addressing violence in our schools will continue to be an important priority as we prepare for the upcoming year.

In May, ETFO also received its salary arbitration decision. The Arbitration Board awarded ETFO’s 80,000 teacher and OT members salary increases of 11.25 per cent over the term of the 2022-2026 collective agreement – an 11.73 per cent increase when compounded over the four years. Recognizing the expertise and qualifications of OTs, the Arbitration Board also decided that all daily OT rates will be adjusted up to a baseline average rate as of Sept. 1, 2024. Over the course of the agreement, ETFO expects the compounded compensation increase for daily OTs moving to the new baseline average rate to be in the range of 14 to 15 per cent. This is the highest increase in over a decade.

Fair compensation should have been negotiated at the bargaining table. Instead of coming together to reach a fair and reasonable agreement, the Ford government was intent on devaluing our members This award highlights the Ford government’s failure to recognize and fairly compensate ETFO educators.

ETFO will continue to advocate for members, whether it’s at the labour board, as was the case with the arbitration on compensation and our application to enforce negotiated language to address violence in schools, or at the Supreme Court of Canada where ETFO is standing up for the democratic rights of Ontarians in response to the government’s appeal of the ruling that struck down Bill 307 as unconstitutional.

As this is our annual Women’s Issue of Voice, I want to talk a little bit about ETFO women’s programs and the important opportunities they provide to women members. At the formation of ETFO, women’s programs were enshrined in our organization as a way to ensure that we continue to work towards equity and to provide dedicated opportunities for the women who make up more than 80 per cent of our union.

Myself and many other women leaders that you see within ETFO, locally and provincially, have benefited from the skills, relationships and training offered by these programs. Guaranteed funding for women’s programs enabled me to develop my skills and fuelled my passion to lead this organization. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the mentorship and leadership of women in this organization. Women’s programs are available to all women members and I encourage you to take advantage of them.

Wishing you a restful summer break and looking forward to organizing with you next year.

– Karen Brown