New Member Information · How does OSSTF FEESO work?



How does OSSTF FEESO work?

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.

Founded in 1919, OSSTF/FEESO represents almost 60,000 public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, attendance counsellors and many other educational workers.

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.

If you are a new member to OSSTF/FEESO, please read this message from our President (PDF) welcoming you to the Federation.

New Member Information

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 37 districts and over 151 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 page.

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) every March.

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?

OSSTF/FEESO works with many organizations, community groups, and other education stakeholders to safeguard the quality of our public education system and improve it in every way possible.  The Federation is doing a lot of work around community organizing to find ways we can collaborate with others on supporting public education in Ontario. 

OSSTF/FEESO belongs to or has partnerships with many provincial, national, and international organizations.  Here are just a few.

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.