DAN CEARNS, Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

DURHAM/KAWARTHA LAKES: With negotiations complete at the provincial table, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) can now focus on beginning collective bargaining agreements with local school boards.
ETFO Durham and the Durham District School Board (DDSB) are working to set up remote bargaining dates.
“We are in talks now with the Board, and hope to find a date to meet in the next couple of weeks,” ETFO Durham President Mary Fowler told The Standard.
Ms. Fowler is hopeful the two sides will move forward quickly and respectfully once the bargaining process begins.
“My hope is that we have productive conversations with the DDSB and that we are able to conclude bargaining in a timely way. Local bargaining is a very important part of the process – it makes up more than half of our Collective Agreement. We want to ensure that we take the time to address the issues of concern that our members have brought forward,” she said.
Despite COVID-19 impacting a lot of things in Durham, Ms. Fowler doesn’t believe the uncertainty of what the world will look like post pandemic will be a big factor in local negotiations.
“I don’t foresee that the return to school, and what that will look like post COVID-19 will play a part of local bargaining. The process itself has been impacted, and as I’m sure most people are finding, everything seems to take longer under this new reality of virtual communication. Figuring out how to bargain remotely will be a challenge, but one that both we and the Board are determined to meet.”
OSSTF District 13 President Shane Stagg explained they are currently in a media blackout, so the local union won’t be discussing local negotiations. However, he reported OSSTF and the DDSB have “had a few meetings but negotiations are still ramping up.”
DDSB chairperson Chris Braney provided a quick statement regarding local negotiations with ETFO and OSSTF.
“The DDSB has positive and collegial working relationships with our local union partners, which we look forward to strengthening through respectful dialogue at each local bargaining table,” he wrote, in his statement.
Meanwhile, Trillium Lakelands District School Board Director of Education Larry Hope provided an update on how the negotiations are going in the Kawartha Lakes.
He stated the board has “started negotiating locally with ETFO” with talks expected to continue this week, but negotiations with OSSTF have not yet begun due to their provincial deal ratification process.
“We’re moving as well as we can with the COVID-19 disruption,” Mr. Hope explained. “It’s very early in the process.”