It is very difficult to summarize and explain an entire year’s work of the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association in few pages. At the very best it, is possible to only touch briefly on the issues and events that stand out or have become important to who we are and what we do as a teacher union.
A significant shift occurred this year in the Human Resources Department at the Winnipeg School Division. After three decades of service to the WSD, the Director of Human Resources, Eugene Gerbasi retired. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his efforts over the years. Many WTA Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Business Agents have worked with Mr. Gerbasi. On behalf of us all, I would like to wish him the best in his retirement.
The new Director of HR is Eric Barnaby. He comes to the position with a background in health care and government. The HR Director’s position is critical in establishing and interpreting many of the WSD policies that directly impact our membership on a day-to-day basis. Beyond the policy side, the WTA meets with or speaks with the HR Director on a regular basis to address concerns and issues as they arise. The new HR Director has also brought to the table a number of interesting concepts that could see the Association and the Division work more closely in the future. On behalf of the WTA, I would like to wish Mr. Barnaby much success in his new position.
The issue of CAP is still one of concern for many members. The WTA and WSD have met regularly this year to discuss specific matters related to the CAP. The Association also conducted a member survey in the fall which had a very good response rate. The results of the survey indicated that the majority of teachers who responded still have concerns with what has been implemented by the WSD. The WSD has indicated that the new ELA CAP Pathway process will be introduced for the Fall along with Fountas and Pinnell. The Vice-President and I will be attending training for the implementation of this prior to the end of this school year. The Association will continue to monitor the CAP process and share member concerns with the WSD as they arise.
The new provincial report card has generated much discussion between the WTA and the WSD during this school year. The information provided by the province has left many unanswered questions which we have tried to address with the Division. We are still waiting for responses in a number of areas.
I was invited to attend the Divisional in-service that was held March 8, 2013 for schools which had not been part of the pilot. At this day long in-service, the Association also received a WSD Report Card Binder.
The WTA has continued to express concerns related to a wide range of report card issues including:
- The increase in workload required to produce anecdotal comments for those who teach large numbers of students.
- The increase in workload required to produce anecdotal comments for each subject area.
- Clarification on the length of anecdotal comments on the term end and year-end report cards.
- The apparent inconsistency of information and training being provided to school staffs.
- The ability of the WSD computer network to handle the higher volume of traffic once all members are on-line next school year.
We will continue to seek clarification and support for the membership as the WSD implements the new reports across the entire Division in the 2013-2014 school year.
The school visit process has continued this year. I would like to thank Nathan Martindale for arranging these visits. At the writing of this report we have been to 64 locations and have spoken with just over 875 WTA members. In many locations the visits have moved away from a standard presentation and now follow a question and answer format. The single most talked about issue during these meetings is the new provincial report card. By year end, the WTA will have completed approximately 90 school/site visits and spoken to over 1000 members in this manner.
I would like to thank the WTA Council Representatives who have assisted in arranging the meetings and all those members who have attended the meetings. These sessions are an excellent way to stay in touch with what is going on in schools.
The WTA spent a great deal of time this year working with the Division to implement the provincial legislation related to violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace. This included reviewing the WSD policy draft, working with HR to develop and refine the incident reporting procedures, reviewing the investigation process and discussing how the membership, as a whole would be trained in this area.
At its core, the new legislation makes it very clear that the employer has an obligation to ensure the workplace is safe. This means the WSD needs to take action immediately when incidents are reported through the Workplace Safety and Health process. That action includes an investigation and then putting in place procedures to ensure the worker is safe. The new legislation can hold the employer criminally liable if appropriate action is not taken when serious incidents are reported.
The hardest part for many WTA members has been getting them into the habit of reporting incidents when they occur. Members believe it is part of their job to be physically assaulted or verbally bullied on a day-to-day basis. The province has made it clear this is not part of any employee’s job and that the employer has a legal obligation to protect members in the workplace.
September found the WTA Executive one member short after the resignation of Shahram Hakimelahi. Shahram had served for a number of years and his resignation was accepted with regret. His good humour and hard work were missed. To fill the vacant Secretary position an election occurred at Council and Kristin Insull was elected. The vacant Executive position that was created by Kristin’s move was filled by the candidate who received the next highest number of votes in the WTA 2012 April Election, Orysya Petryshyn.
I would like to thank the Executive for their efforts over this past school year. The work is by no means glamorous, but without their efforts the ability of the WTA to serve its members across a wide range of areas would grind to a halt. I have valued their honesty, frank discussions and feedback as we have worked through many issues this year.
Winston Blakey did not stand for re-election to the Executive for the coming year. As Chair of the Group Benefits Committee, Winston worked hard to ensure that the membership continued to receive the best possible benefit plans. We wish him well with his growing family and hope that one day he will consider returning to the Executive to continue the good work he has started.
A special thank you needs to go to those who work in the WTA office every day: Glenda Shepherd, Henry Shyka, and Nathan Martindale. The work of these individuals is at the core of the services that are delivered on a daily basis to both active and retired members. I continue to appreciate their wise counsel. It is a pleasure to be in a workplace where you can have a “good laugh” every now and then and still get the job done.