Francine LeBlanc-Lebel, President of Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) addressed Annual Meeting delegates near the end of Session 4. President LeBlanc-Lebel described OTF as exemplifying the unified voice of teachers, promoting professional rights and responsibilities for teachers and safeguarding the profession and publicly funded public education in Ontario.
To fulfill its mandate, OTF engages in a number of activities on behalf of its members, including:
- campaigns designed to raise the profile of public education and the teaching profession;
- awards, like the OTIP Teaching Awards, which recognizes public teachers for their efforts in making Ontario’s schools the best they can be for students, and
- outstanding supports, professional development and resources for new and experienced teachers through OTF Connects.
President LeBlanc-Lebel noted that at the OTF Annual General Meeting next week, ten OTF Fellowship Awards will be granted to teachers for their outstanding service to education. This year, two former ETFO members — Ken Collins and Kathleen Loftus — will receive the OTF Fellowship Award.
President LeBlanc-Lebel mentioned that the Ontario College of Teachers’ (OCT) new governing council took office earlier this year, with a mandate based on an exceptionally low turnout of OCT voters. OTF will continue to work with and lobby OCT to confine its purview to its legislative mandate and refrain from “mandate creep.”
President LeBlanc-Lebel alerted members to some Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) amendments that have been approved, including a reset of the 50 day work limit for pensioners and simplifications/enhancements in the administration of survivor benefits. She also advised delegates that OTF has communicated its “severe opposition” to OTPP of its decision to outsource a number of unionized positions in its IT Department. OTF is actively lobbying OTPP to reverse its decision.
President LeBlanc-Lebel concluded her address to the delegates by thanking ETFO’s outgoing General Secretary Victoria Reaume for her strong advocacy on behalf of the teaching profession over the past three years and welcoming Sharon O’Halloran as ETFO General Secretary as of September 2016.
Following President LeBlanc-Lebel’s address to the ETFO Annual Meeting, OTF Table Officer Diane Dewing provided a pension update and answered questions from delegates.
OTF Table Officer Dewing confirmed that, despite a very volatile year in the stock market, OTPP is fully funded, with a $13.2 billion dollar surplus. Only 25% of each pension dollar comes from member contributions; 75% comes directly from investments and so OTPP’s investment strategy needs to be robust enough to support pension obligations to teachers as well as be responsible and ethical. OTF Table Officer Dewing confirmed that OTPP has not only become a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative, but has also created its own responsible investing principles that can be found on the OTPP website at www.otpp.com/investments/responsible-investing.
OTF Table Officer Dewing discussed the decision by OTPP to relocate some unionized (OPSEU) IT jobs to India in great detail. She stated that “these are unionized Ontario Canadian workers’ jobs and they need to remain that way.” She confirmed that OTF’s Secretary Treasurer, Rhonda Kimberly-Young, has sent a strongly worded letter to the CEO of OTPP, Ron Mock, asking that he address this problem immediately. OTF continues to lobby OTPP to reverse this decision. ETFO President Sam Hammond’s strong labour connections have been extremely helpful in brokering timely and necessary conversations between OPSEU and OTF to solve this issue.