This year, the Annual Action Plan development process included soliciting submissions on a particular themes with the intent of providing an overall focus and coherence to the final product. Protecting and enhancing public education is a significant part of our stated mission and defending quality education contributes to that mission. Three sub-themes have arisen as priorities in this regard: addressing workplace violence, supporting collaborative professionalism, and gaining insight into university funding.
Workplace violence initiative
A Leaders workshop on “Advocacy and Bargaining for Mental Health and Well Being”
Protecting quality education must also be about protecting the mental health of the individuals who deliver and/or facilitate it. Increased workload, relentless ministry/board initiatives, continual change (and the current ideologies that promote ‘change’ as a ‘cure’ to the system), unreasonable deadlines, “helicopter parents,” and poorly-trained administrators all contribute to conditions that can negatively impact mental health.
This is a workshop intended to be preventative, rather than to deal with mental health issues after the fact. It will focus on how to advocate for members through usual advocacy processes, but also directly through bargaining and the grievance procedure using a mental health perspective. This would not be job-class specific, as the issues can be generalized and applied by the leaders in each of their Bargaining Units.
Resource to assist members with student behavioural issues in the early years
Addressing violence in the workplace has been identified as a priority for the federation and its members. In order to make a difference, it is important to address these issues in the early formative years. When members have a working understanding of the root causes and effects of negative behavioural issues they are better able to make a difference in the work environment for everyone; it improves the students learning opportunities, the safety of members and it empowers members to utilize the process(es) that are in place.
We have invested many hours developing resources that provide assistance to our members regarding their employment responsibilities and in dealing with issues that arise in their daily work. This resource will examine the behavioural issues affecting students in the early years and will provide direction to members.
Workplace Sexual Violence, Assault and Harassment Survey
The Federation has continued to identify workplace violence as a priority. Data from the CLC indicates that workplace sexual violence is experienced by many union members. We know that the issue of violence is real and incidences of workplace violence are increasing. This survey will look at this aspect of the issue in all areas and circumstances, in the workplace, by students, parents, co-workers, and also within OSSTF/FEESO at districts and provincial functions.
The plan will include the development of a comprehensive survey for our members/leaders, to determine the extent and nature of incidents of sexual violence, assault and harassment.
Supporting collaborative professionalism
Strategic goal-setting for collaborative professionalism
PPM 159: Collaborative Professionalism arose from OSSTF/FEESO’s efforts at teacher/occasional teacher central negotiations to secure a right to professional judgment in curriculum delivery for educators. While we have a proud history of creating and delivering excellent professional development, they have been largely issue-focused. The Federation has engaged much less in taking positions on particular pedagogical practices and directions frequently being foisted on members. Now, with members overwhelmed by the requirement to engage in unproductive professional practices, in some cases facing unsatisfactory performance appraisals for refusing to engage in pedagogical approaches of dubious effectiveness, OSSTF/FEESO needs to become a leader in identifying and promoting effective classroom practice.
To address this OSSTF/FEESO will create a work group to propose policies to support empirically-based pedagogy; useful educational research; and strategies for supporting the Federation’s role as promoters of valuable education training.
Against the backdrop of endless and questionable initiatives from the Ministry of Education and school boards, OSSTF/FEESO is making the protection of professional autonomy a priority. We need to ensure that these initiatives are fully integrated into ongoing practice. The conference proposed here is one way of confirming that protection of professional judgment remains at the forefront of OSSTF/FEESO’s efforts.
The intent of the conference will be multifold. First, attendees will have the opportunity to hear and learn from experts in a wide variety of education-related research fields. They will increase their expertise in empirically based pedagogical practices and develop further their ability to question the validity of board and ministry imposed initiatives. Second, this conference should serve as a further organizational catalyst to enforcing the importance of collaborative professionalism within the education system.
Lack of transparency in university funding has repeatedly created difficulties for OSSTF/FEESO university support staff Bargaining Units. While enrolments, faculty, and certainly administration levels increase, our support staff members are constantly vulnerable to job loss and the increased workloads that arise from the failure to match staffing levels with work demands.
University funding is opaque compared to school board funding. First, universities have multiple funding sources and not all of them are subject to outside scrutiny. Second, university Boards of Governors are appointed, rather than elected. These boards are originally constituted under the Act that governed the creation of the university and are subsequently subject to the bylaws that the governors create. The boards become self-replicating, with no requirement that a variety of stakeholders, such as staff representatives, unions, faculty, and so forth, be included. Addressing the university funding issue without addressing the governance issue seems less and less likely.
In consultation with OSSTF/FEESO university support staff Bargaining Unit leadership, Federation staff will research the Act and bylaws that mandate university governance structures and a strategy for advocating for governance changes, where necessary, will be developed and implemented.