The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) welcomes its new members whether they be teachers or educational workers and strives to provide them with the information needed to work safely and professionally. We also want to educate our new members as to their rights and responsibilities, both as members of OSSTF/FEESO and as employees.
OSSTF/FEESO, like every union, exists to protect and serve its membership — do not be afraid to ask questions or request assistance.
The five “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) categories below will provide information about a wide variety of questions that new members often have about being part of a union in general or about OSSTF/FEESO in particular.
If you don’t find what you are looking for in any of the sections below, please fill in and submit the “Send us a message" form on the Contact Us page and someone will get back to you with an answer as quickly as possible.
What is a Union?
The Labour Relations Act defines “trade union” as “an organization of employees formed for purposes that include the regulation of relations between employees and employers and includes a provincial, national, or international trade union, a certified council of trade unions and a designated or certified employee bargaining agency.”
In other words, a union is an organized group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace. Through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues.
Who is in my Union?
OSSTF/FEESO is a trade union comprised of teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, continuing education teachers and instructors, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, university support staff, attendance counselors and many other education professionals.
We consist of almost 60,000 spread among 35 districts and over 140 bargaining units which over all four publicly funded education systems as well as some independent education programs and several universities.
For more information about the origin and significant events in OSSTF/FEESO’s proud history, visit our History and Fast Facts
Do I have to join the Union?
All teachers (as defined in the Teaching Profession Act) are required by law to belong to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation as a condition of teaching in the publicly funded schools of Ontario. The OTF is made up of four unions: OSSTF/FEESO, ETFO, OECTA and AEFO. The specific union to which a teacher belongs is dictated by who hires him/her. All teachers in English-language public secondary schools automatically become members of OSSTF/FEESO. Similarly, all teachers in English-language public elementary schools belong to ETFO; all teachers in English-language Catholic secondary and elementary schools belong to OECTA; all teachers in French-language, public and Catholic, secondary and elementary schools belong to AEFO.
All other educational workers who are members of OSSTF/FEESO became members originally by choice, and subsequently, as a condition of employment as outlined in their collective agreement with their respective employers.
How is OSSTF/FEESO structured?
Democracy is the hallmark of OSSTF/FEESO decision-making. All bargaining units and districts have their own constitutions and executives elected at the local level. TheOSSTF/FEESO Constitution and Bylaws along with our Policies and Procedures outline how OSSTF/FEESO is structured and how we conduct our business as a union.
The Provincial Executive is elected for a two-year term at the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA). The Provincial Executive is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Federation and oversees the Provincial Office. The Provincial Executive answers to the members through the Provincial Council.
The biggest decisions, such as the changes to our provincial constitution, are made by representatives from every district and bargaining unit across the province at the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA)
Can I belong to more than one Union or bargaining unit?
Yes, because union membership is dictated by your professional role and workplace, this can result in membership in more than one union and/or bargaining unit.
For example, it is not uncommon for new teachers to be on Occasional Teacher rosters in more than one school board and/or more than one panel which could mean that they may be paying union dues to more than one union from one day to the next as they do supply teaching from school to school.
Similarly, it is possible that one employee in the same school board may have a partial permanent teaching position and then be hired for supply teaching for parts of the unassigned time in which case, he/she would be a member of both the Teachers’ bargaining unit and the Occasional Teachers’ bargaining unit.
It is also possible to be in both a teaching and a support staff bargaining unit, again depending on the kinds of part-time positions one has.
With which other organizations does OSSTF/FEESO work?
We work with parents, school boards, governments and other stakeholders to safeguard the quality of our public education system and improve it in every way possible. OSSTF/FEESO has a proud history of collective action and political protest that has resulted in positive changes for all of our members. These collective actions have stopped governments from imposing changes on our members that would both harm our bargaining rights and the public education system overall.
OSSTF/FEESO is pleased to work with the many unions and labour organizations that are represented by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in a campaign to stop the attacks on the rights of working Canadians. Together, working people have won decent wages, safer workplaces, fair treatment and other important benefits that keep us healthy and productive. Information about the Together Fairness Works campaign can be found on our own website
and also on the CLC website
What is a Collective Agreement or contract?
A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a union. It is called a “collective agreement” because it is negotiated and agreed to by both parties and as such both parties have the obligation to live up to and enforce its provisions. This agreement contains provisions governing the terms and conditions of employment. It also contains the rights, privileges and duties of the employer, the union and the employees.
Where do I get a copy of my contract?
Your employer should have given you a copy of your contract (collective agreement) or shown you how to access it on the employer website or intranet when you were hired. Some districts and bargaining units also post a copy on their website. If you still cannot find or access it, contact the president of your bargaining unit. On our website, you will find a list of the contact information and websites for all of the OSSTF/FEESO districts and bargaining units