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Your Collective Agreement

As an employee of a district school board or school authority and as a member of your ETFO local, you are covered by the terms of a collective agreement. That agreement is negotiated between the federation and your board and contains a number of provisions outlining your rights as an employee. Although your salary and benefits may seem the most obvious and important to you right now, your agreement also contains clauses on working conditions such as class size and preparation time, leave provisions, seniority, transfer, probationary period, evaluation procedures, and much more.

As an employee it is particularly important to know what your collective agreement says about performance appraisal, resignation and termination dates, length of probationary period, rights of the board to impose disciplinary action, and access to your personnel file. In short, make sure you have a copy of your collective agreement handy and get to know what’s in it!

The Grievance Procedure

The terms of your collective agreement are legally binding upon you, the union, and your employer, and are enforceable under law. If you think your employer has violated the terms of the agreement, the union may have recourse to a grievance. The grievance procedure is a process for resolving differences arising from the application or interpretation of your collective agreement. It provides an opportunity to resolve differences at the local level. If there is no satisfactory conclusion, the parties have access to arbitration, a procedure where a neutral third party hears the arguments and renders a final and binding decision.

Assistance from ETFO

ETFO is the bargaining agent for all ETFO bargaining units. ETFO Collective Bargaining staff provides direct assistance to your local, as well as all other locals, to help you achieve and maintain strong collective agreements. They provide assistance with:

  • preparation of preliminary proposals for improvements to your collective agreement,
  • ongoing advice on strategies and bargaining positions,
  • direct bargaining in the event of an impasse,
  • training of local presidents and negotiators at regional and provincial conferences,
  • assistance in contract enforcement including the processing of grievances,
  • access to legal advice through staff, and
  • production of resource documents, statistical and clausal analyses, agreement summaries, trends in negotiations, and other materials relevant to bargaining.

A strong, active membership is built on an informed membership. ETFO keeps members informed in a number of ways:

  1. Voice Magazine is geared to the classroom teacher. It reflects ETFO’s commitment to member service and member involvement. Columns, articles, and lesson plan inserts written by members and staff provide practical advice to assist teachers in their working lives. Curriculum inserts are drawn from ETFO curriculum resource materials or are provided by teachers with specialist knowledge in subject areas. Voice also explores pedagogical and political issues of interest to members. In addition, Voice aims to provide members with knowledge about the federation and the organizations it belongs to and supports. The column ‘Your Federation’ provides members with news about ETFO and its activities, and highlights member achievements. The magazine is mailed directly to the homes of 76,000 members. It is also distributed to students at faculties of education across the province and is sent to a variety of interested education professionals. Back issues are available on the website.
  2. Stewards' Mailings are regular mailings to your ETFO school steward provide you with up-to-date information on education issues, upcoming conferences, and opportunities for involvement. Members can subscribe to receive an electronic version of the Stewards' Mailings via email.
  3. The ETFO website can be accessed at anytime for up-to-date information on the federation and related educational issues.
  4. The ETFO eNewsletter is published bi-weekly during the school year. Its mission is to deliver timely information about:
    • the work of the federation;
    • issues in education;
    • political campaigns;
    • professional learning opportunities;
    • environmental issues; and
    • social justice, equity and women's issues.

Members can sign up to receive The ETFO eNewsletter from any page on the ETFO website.


Teaching: A Complex Task in a Litigious Climate

During the course of your career you may experience professional difficulties that cannot be addressed or resolved through the collective agreement. Working in the education system is more challenging today than it has ever been. Teachers and education workers have complex and varying roles in a litigious climate during a time of continual change and ongoing challenges.

Professional Relations Staff Are There for You

ETFO professional relations staff provide information, advice, support, and intervention for members who are experiencing professional difficulties covering a broad range of issues.

Staff in professional relations will advise you of your rights and responsibilities in matters such as:

  • College of Teachers/College of Early Childhood Educators complaints
  • performance appraisals
  • criminal allegations that are related to employment responsibilities
  • difficulties with students, staff, parents, administration
  • disciplinary action
  • employment insurance, maternity and parental leaves
  • ethics and professionalism
  • harassment, discrimination (racial, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • human rights issues
  • long term disability
  • negligence
  • resignation and termination
  • return to work/accommodation issues
  • stress and sick leave
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
  • other work related issues

Confidential Help: Available 24 Hours A Day

A 24-hour emergency assistance line is available to members facing criminal allegations related to their employment responsibilities.

For advice or assistance in any of these areas, contact ETFO professional relations staff at 416-962-3836 or toll free: 1-888-838-3836.

All information shared by a member with Professional Relations staff is confidential.


About Edvantage

Edvantage is a rewards program created especially for the members of Ontario's education community. Our partners offer elite discounts and savings for the education community and their families throughout the entire province. Whether you are looking to travel, be entertained, buy insurance, become a gym member, or more, you'll be able to find exclusive savings with Edvantage!

Edvantage is administered by OTIP (Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan). OTIP has been providing insurance products and services to Ontario's education community for over 27 years. Edvantage is a registered trademark of OTIP.

Go Online To See What's Offered

Learn more about the exclusive savings available to you by visiting

ETFO member cardUse your Edvantage Card

Your ETFO member card serves a dual purpose as your Edvantage membership card. Visit the Edvantage website to see how this card gives you access to exclusive offers throughout Ontario!

Subscribe to Edvantage e-News

Stay in touch and receive updates about exclusive offers and savings for the education community by signing up to eNews, Edvantage’s electronic newsletter. 


ETFO: A Leader on Equity Issues

ETFO is a leader among teacher federations on equity issues, particularly with respect to support for women’s participation and leadership. There are designated positions for women on the ETFO Executive (5 of 14 positions), and constitutional guarantees that programs for women will be provided, with funding allocated for this purpose. These programs offer direct services to women members through courses, workshops, awards, and publications. Funding is also available to establish provincial and local partnerships with other organizations and to support groups that advance the status of women and women’s issues in society.

ETFO’s equity and women’s programs are offered in the context of the Federation’s constitutional object “to foster a climate of social justice in Ontario and continue a leadership role in such areas as anti-poverty, non-violence, and equity,” and in the spirit of the definition of equity adopted by the ETFO Executive:

ETFO recognizes that we live in a society characterized by individual and systemic discrimination against particular groups. Within this context ETFO defines equity as fairness achieved through proactive measures which result in equality for all.

Work incorporating these principles spans all of the service areas of ETFO. The particular issues of women members, Aboriginal members, visible minority members, members with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members are addressed through standing committees, included in women’s programs, and explored through a range of other equity programs, as are, increasingly, issues of poverty and social class.

Ongoing Programs, Initiatives and Resources

Some of the ongoing programs and initiatives offered through the service area include:

  • An annual women’s conference, …and still we rise, held in February, incorporating leadership training (collective bargaining, presentation skills, equity, health and safety, legal issues, new teacher, and local leadership) with personal growth programs, guest speakers, music, and celebration;   
  • Leaders for Tomorrow: leadership training for diverse women;   
  • Diversity in Leadership: leadership training for women and men from Designated Groups;   
  • Workshops for teachers addressing a variety of equity issues including in-service sessions for the ETFO inclusive curriculum resources;   
  • Professional Learning Communities for Women: support for women engaged in leadership within the union;   
  • Support for local anti-racist education /equity committees;   
  • Partnerships with the Anti-Racist Multicultural Educators’
  • Network of Ontario (AMENO), Women’s Future Fund (WFF), Coalition for Inclusive Curriculum (CIC), Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), and with community groups;   
  • Participation in the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) equity committees and events;
  • Participation in the Canadian Aboriginal Festival in November;
  • Work at the local level including steward training on equity, poverty, and social justice issues;
  • Partnerships with organizations addressing international human rights issues and initiatives;
  • Participation in Pride Day parades and events;
  • Participation in International Women’s Day and Take Back the Night activities;
  • Anti-violence workshops offered at the provincial and local levels;
  • Outreach to members from designated groups to increase their involvement in ETFO;
  • Workshops on disabilities and accommodation issues offered at the local level;
  • Curriculum resources, pamphlets, and publications addressing broad-based equity issues;
  • Regional curriculum conferences and ICT courses are offered in cooperation with ETFO locals and school boards. Be sure to watch for the Connect conference held specifically for new teachers each year.   

Watch for additional information on these programs and others from your local president, your ETFO steward, your local status of women chairperson, ETFO publications, the Equity section on the ETFO website, and in Voice. Finally, be sure to check shopETFO for a variety of inclusive curriculum resources ready for classroom use.


In addition to maintaining strong links between the provincial organization and the locals, ETFO works to foster a strong active membership and an effective leadership through a variety of services and programs.


The ETFO video Voices of the Union, available from your local, shows new as well as experienced ETFO members discussing the value of the union and the opportunities for involvement. Four pamphlets – Welcome to Your Union, ETFO – Make It Strong! Get Involved!, ETFO and the Labour Movement, So Now you Belong to a Union – accompany the video and provide more information about ETFO and opportunities for involvement. Copies of the pamphlets are sent to each new member.


  • For Local Executives
    ETFO staff delivers workshops to local executives on goal setting, planning, teambuilding, issue management, effective meetings, and much more. The fall leadership training give local elected leaders opportunities to hone their skills and increase their knowledge of education issues.
  • For Stewards
    ETFO offers stewards a variety of workshops on communications, rights and responsibilities, collective bargaining, equity issues, welcoming new members, conflict resolution, and many more.
  • For Teachers on School Councils
    Workshops specifically designed for the teacher representatives on school councils assist them to advance the cause of education with parents and the broader community.

Local Political Action Contacts

ETFO maintains a list of political action contacts in each local to keep them informed about activities at Queen’s Park – those of the government and of the opposition parties. Members are informed either through e-mail updates or mailings.

ETFO Political Action Listservs

ETFO maintains two listservs which facilitate communications from Government Relations Officer, Federico Carvajal:

  1. ETFOpanet
    This listserv is for members in good standing who are interested in receiving regular political information updates.
    To join, go to, read the instructions, and fill out the subscription form. Once approved, you will begin receiving regular updates from Federico
  2. Panet
    This listserv is for the political action contacts in the locals.
    Members are added to this list automatically upon being assigned the portfolio.

Campaigns and Communications

ETFO also coordinates all-local and all-member campaigns to advance public education on the government agenda. A feature on our website is an email campaign tool that allows you to target emails on important issues to your local MP or MPP. The report, Queen’s Park Highlights, gives you an up-to-date “union take” on what’s happening at the Ontario legislature when it is in session.


If there is one word that describes education today it is change. The fast pace of change is unprecedented and likely will continue. To assist you to turn these changes and the challenges they bring into useful learning experiences for you and your students, ETFO offers an array of professional growth opportunities as well as high-quality, low-cost curriculum resources:

  • Survive and Thrive, a free on-line conference for teachers in their first five years, is full of downloadable classroom resources, keynote presentations by experts, useful web-links and much more.
  • ETFO developed book club facilitators’ guides for five of our resources: Making Math Happen in the Primary Years, Making Math Happen in the Junior Years, Classroom Beginnings, Teaching for Deep Understanding, and The Class That Reads. These guides are useful for locals who choose to run a book club for their members during the year.
  • Many locals partner with the provincial ETFO to offer workshops especially for new teachers. “Ultimate Teaching Strategies for New Teachers” is a workshop full of practical ideas that can be used in every classroom. “Surviving While Smiling” is a four-part workshop series offered throughout the year focused on topics such as planning, classroom management, creating an effective learning environment, assessment and evaluation, and professional boundaries. Check with your school steward or local president to see if your local is offering these programs.
  • ETFO Presenters On The Road program brings a variety of curriculum workshops developed by members for members and delivered throughout the province. Your ETFO local makes this happen.
  • Regional curriculum conferences and ICT courses are offered in cooperation with ETFO locals and school boards.
  • Check the Resources Section of the ETFO website and shopETFO for access to our PD Publications and documents developed by teachers and ready for use in your classroom.

Be sure to check out the calendar and the Professional Learning sections of this website for more information on upcoming professional learning opportunities. Your ETFO steward receives regular mailings with application forms for many programs. Your local professional development chair is an important source of information as is your local president.


Advocating for You and Your Profession

Establishing a positive profile for public elementary teachers and for the federation is essential to the success of the organization, the morale of the members, and the credibility of our issues. Public relations in ETFO takes a variety of forms including regular media releases on emerging issues, radio ads, print campaigns, billboard advertising, pamphlets for parents and teachers, and much more.

Working Together to Advance Education and Social Justice

Locals also receive support in their communications strategies through individual assistance and through communication workshops that ETFO staff delivers to locals. ETFO regularly works with other federations and unions, social justice groups, community agencies, and education stakeholders to advance education and social justice issues.


All workers, including ETFO members, have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. However, there are numerous hazards in school communities that can cause accidents, injury or illness. These hazards have the potential to affect the health, safety, and well-being of ETFO members, other staff and students.

Health and Safety Services staff members provide locals with expertise and support regarding the legal and policy requirements to ensure health, safety and well-being in schools. This includes:

  • Ongoing advice and information to local leaders and members concerning hazards in the workplace, responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the functioning of the Joint Health and Safety Committee;
  • Oversight for the planning and implementation of ETFO’s Action on Violence in Schools, our multi-year strategy to address workplace violence;
  • Assistance in seeking enforcement of minimum standards through the Ministry of Labour (MOL);
  • Advocacy for health and safety improvements for members through participations in consultations with the MOL, lobbying MPPs including the Minister of Labour, and developing contract language;
  • Participation in the OFL and CLC Health and Safety Committees, events and campaigns;
  • Communications through Voice magazine, Voice online, Steward’s Mailings, the e-Newsletter and the ETFO websites;
  • General health and safety awareness workshops offered at events hosted by other service areas; and
  • Training of local leaders and health and safety representatives at regional health and safety training programs and the provincial health and safety conferences.

More information about the Federation’s commitment to achieving a safe and healthy workplace for its members is included on ETFO’s Health and Safety website at: