Message to Members from Secondary School Teachers’ Toronto Bargaining Unit

Message to Members from Secondary School Teachers’ Toronto Bargaining Unit

On September 7, prior to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) provincial town hall meeting on the idea of giving up the right to strike in this round of negotiations and going to voluntary binding interest arbitration, the executive of OSSTF District 12 representing high school teachers in Toronto public schools issued a statement:

After thorough and fulsome discussion, your local Toronto Teacher Bargaining Unit Executive unanimously passed the following motion:

“Be It Resolved That the TTBU Executive opposes the voluntary binding arbitration pathway pursued by OSSTF/FEESO.”

We have concerns about pursuing voluntary binding arbitration.

First and foremost, we have concerns about the impact on local bargaining.

We have concerns about voluntarily entering into a binding arbitration process that eliminates our right to strike or take other job actions such as selective withdrawal of services. The ability to strike or withdraw services is one of the cornerstones of the labour movement and has been hard fought over the years. To voluntarily give up that right has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for education workers and the entire labour movement.

It is also important to note the difference between mandatory arbitration and voluntarily entering into binding arbitration before other options to reach a deal have been attempted. In recognition of the fact that essential workers are unable to take job actions, arbitrators have traditionally awarded gains to those workers. This is not necessarily the case where workers voluntarily enter into the process.

Members are being asked to vote on this pathway with limited information about the details of what a final agreement will look like, unlike a ratification vote where they would have clarity on agreed wages, benefits, workload, etc. Through this pathway proposed by OSSTF/FEESO, Members will be unable to vote on the final agreement. In essence, Members are being asked to vote on an agreement before it is finalized.

Pursuing this pathway represents the most significant departure from OSSTF/FEESO collective bargaining orthodoxy ever undertaken by our union. We are concerned that this might have a serious impact on solidarity, on our capacity to organize our Members, and on building collective actions going forward.

After careful consideration, and much discussion, the Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit Executive decided unanimously that we cannot support this pathway, and that this needed to be communicated to Members prior to the commencement of voting. Our aim is not to direct Members how to vote, but to share our concerns so they can make their own informed decisions. To that end, we encourage you to attend the Town Halls that will be held over the coming weeks, including an OSSTF Toronto specific Town Hall on September 20, 2023 at 7:00 pm.

In solidarity,
OSSTF Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit Executive