Around OECTA

February 2022

Civility and Respect in the Workplace

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  

Mark Twain

Our office has been made aware of a number of recent interactions that have caused concern.  We have had reports of comments made wishing unvaccinated colleagues harm and illness.  Reports were also received about troubling communication to HWCDSB staff at the most recent distribution of the Rapid Antigen Test kits.  Allegations about comments about the Star of David and markings on the arm have been heard.  We acknowledge that the distribution of the kits violated the confidentiality of employees, and we are addressing this issue with the Board through the  grievance process.  In spite of this confidentiality breach, there is no reasonable comparison to the Jewish families being rounded up and sent to concentration and death camps during World War II.   Teachers risk serious complaints of racism at the College of Teachers and the Human Rights Tribunal when they make these sorts of public statements.

Disagreements and differing opinions occur in the workplace regularly.  We should choose to express ourselves with civility and respect.  Directing anger toward someone who is implementing a decision made by another person or organization is wrong.  Just as we don’t yell at the cashier about a company or government policy, nor should we direct our anger at the wrong target.  Be sure you are directing your frustration at the correct person.  

We have also been made aware of situations when teachers are sharing their personal Covid-19 beliefs and opinions with students.  Child vaccination and RAT testing decisions are to be made by parents with the advice of their medical providers.  Educators should not be coercing students or encouraging them to convince their parents to get the vaccine or do the test.  Likewise, teachers should not be pressuring families to avoid the use of vaccinations or RATs.

Policy debates are healthy in a democracy, incivility is a disease.  Let us commit to treating each other with courtesy, politeness, graciousness and respect!

Health Canada Safety Alert for Rapid Antigen Tests

Recently, some teachers have reached out to our office drawing attention to the recent Health Canada Rapid Antigen Test safety alert.  It states, “Health Canada is aware of approximately 50 calls made to poison centres in Canada related to accidental exposure, which have resulted in minor health outcomes.”  The products that the caution is referring to are not intended to be used on your skin, ingested or be in contact with your eyes.  The advisory was particularly recommending to avoid having children or small pets ingest or be exposed on their skin or eyes.  Just like cautions around the use and storage of medications or cleaning products such as bleach, care should be used with these kits around children and pets. The advisory also states that  “while these kits are safe, effective, and beneficial for self-testing, the product labelling and instructions may not describe or disclose the risks associated with misuse or accidental ingestion.” 

Link to the Advisory:

Snow Days?

The snow is flying and prayerful devotions to Our Lady of the Snows are being given throughout the evening in hopes that the school authorities will have the better sense to declare tomorrow a snow day.  Upon awakening in the morning, a quick check of the Twitterverse reveals a tweet from the HWCDSB clearly showing that you can have just as much fun tobogganing at school as you can at home - the hills at home would be crowded with all those public school kids, anyway. So, out of bed and on with the day. No time for breakfast - the car needs to be cleared of its frosty dressing onto a driveway which will 'just have to wait for later.'  With any luck, the neighbours' public school kids will shovel it after coming back from the hills. After the third failed attempt at making forward progress in the deep snow, the thought of investing in snow tires takes hold while the neighbours, in unison, push your car from behind,   launching you onward and out of the . The main roads will be better, right?  Right? Despite the radio being off, a familiar tune permeates your consciousness throughout the white-knuckled drive - looks like Jesus is taking the wheel once again. 

While the above is an (attempted) humourous take on the decision to declare a snow day, all jokes aside, no matter the call there will never be consensus across the widely diverse range of perspectives on the issue. When schools are closed, as has been demonstrated so amply over the past two years, the impacts are received differently by the people across our city. Take, for instance, a worker for whom a snow day represents a pay cut through lost wage or additional childcare costs for the day. To others, the impact may be felt to a lesser degree. Or, for a very fortunate group of people, perhaps there is no impact at all. Members are reminded that our collective agreement includes provisions for the use of an inclement weather day when travel is deemed by the member to be too treacherous. Judicious use of this provision is the expectation.

All of the above stated, loudly and clearly we have heard the concerns of our members who say that safety is not being prioritized in the decision-making process. On that front, we continue to advocate for everyone's safety. As we all know, significant absences among staff and students are typically observed on days where schools remain open while transportation services are cancelled. On days like these, arguably, the educational returns pale in comparison to the size of the wager placed on the safety of staff and students. To label such days as "instructional days" is a misnomer of terms and represents a disconnect in the understanding of what teachers do. 

Preparations are currently underway to enter into the next round of collective bargaining. Shortly, a committee of your colleagues will be assembled whose varied experiences and perspectives will give rise to a  bargaining proposal  to be be presented to the Board during negotiations. This is an opportunity to participate in shaping local working conditions into the future. Issues, such as those pertaining to inclement weather days, are within the scope of discussions. To that end, if you are frustrated with the management of issues such as inclement weather days, consider applying to be a part of the Local Collective Bargaining Committee.  This is your chance to knock loudly upon the door of the Board and make a positive difference for you and your colleagues. Follow this link to apply today.    

Attendance Balances

Several members have reached out recently after noticing errors in their attendance balances. When your attendance is inappropriately managed the implications may include immediate financial losses  and also affect you the following school year through a reduction in top-up days accessible when using your Short Term Disability and Leave Plan. 

When checking your attendance balances, it is important to refer to 2 sources; Employee Self-Self and SmartFind Express.  When you register an absence in SmartFind Express, the accounting for that absence is eventually reflected in the Employee Self-Serve. Monitoring these data sources for accuracy is a good practice to maintain throughout the school year and at its conclusion. Catching an error sooner rather than later often results in a speedier resolution.  

Snow Days and Cancelled Absences

In the event that inclement weather leads to a system-wide school closure, a longstanding agreement with the Board permits members to cancel any previously entered absences into the SmartFind Express system without loss of credit to absence banks. The absence MUST be cancelled before the start of the school day.

On recent snow days, some members had cancelled their absences appropriately, but the Board reverted the change in SmartFind Express such that a deduction would occur from the attendance balances of our members. The Board was subsequently reminded of the agreement, and those days should now be credited back to any impacted members. 

Please be certain to check in Employee Self-Serve and SmartFind Express to ensure that this is the case, and reach out to the office with any attendance anomalies. 

WSIB Claims and Absences

When a member is in the unfortunate situation of needing to access benefits through the WSIB, their absences are generally registered in SmartFind Express using the code for Personal Illness.  Once a claim has been approved for time off, the WSIB assumes payment for the missed time, and the member's personal illness bank is credited.  

On occasion, the Board has been slow to reconcile their WSIB files with the attendance management system resulting in a member's personal illness days and/or short term disability days being used and not credited back. In some instances, this has financially disadvantaged members while being paid at 90% of daily wages while in the short term disability plan.  

Members who have accessed WSIB benefits are highly encouraged to cross-reference their attendance statements in Employee Self-Serve and SmartFind Express to ensure that all absences have been properly accounted for.  If any incongruencies exist, please reach out to the OECTA-HW office.

Checking Attendance

Step 1 - Log into ESS

Step 2 - Navigate to Absence Balances

Step 3 - Review Allocations and Balances

Take note of your allocations and balances.  This information needs to square with the data entered into SmartFind Express.  If you do not understand the information presented, please reach out to the office for assistance.  

Step 4 - Log into SFE

Step 5 - Review Absences

Once logged into SmartFind Express, choose "Review Absences" from the menu bar, while selecting the "List of" radio button.  Be sure to set the date range from the start of the school year to today's date.

The list which is generated will indicate the code to account for each absence. Ensure that the list from SmartFind Express aligns with the table in Employee Self-Serve.

If it is found that there are incongruencies between the two sources, please reach out to the OECTA-HW office for assistance.

Earned Leave Plan

Article 8 of the 2014-2017 contract provided members with access to partially paid and unpaid days as an incentive for an attendance record which was better than the average of their colleagues across the system.  As of August 31, 2019, this plan ceased to have any force inasmuch as additional earned leave credits could no longer be accrued. Days previously earned, however, remain in place to be accessed with conditions. Please refer to Article 8 of your contract for all the details related to accessing your earned leave.

Important to Know

Callout to Members

Local Collective Bargaining Committee

In a few short months, our contract will be coming to the end of its life. To prepare for the upcoming negotiations, the unit office is now accepting applications to the Local Collective Bargaining Committee. Participation on this committee is a great way to learn more about your contract, meet new people, and serve the members of OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth.  If you're interested in increasing your involvement in OECTA and in serving our members, please follow the link below to complete your application.  Please note the due date is March 7 @ 12pm.

Commit to Vote

The Ontario General Election is quickly approaching. This is a big year for us!  On June 2nd we have the responsibility to select the next Ontario government and our contract expires on August 31st.  You can help our colleagues by preparing for and participating in both events.  We are still looking for participants on our Local Collective Bargaining Committee.  Please find the link below to apply.  Over the next few months we will be asking for your help for the next Provincial election.  Today we are asking for you to commit to vote June 2nd.  Please click on the link below to record your commitment.  Together we can make a change!

Retirement Celebration Planning

For those members who have made (and are still making) the difficult decision to retire this school year, we want to acknowledge and honour each of you for your years of dedication and service to your students and to Catholic education in Ontario. Though COVID has curtailed our typical retirement celebrations these past couple of years, plans are underway to  properly celebrate our retirees. At this time, if you have made the decision to join the Retiring Class 2022, please sign your name to our survey using the link below. If you haven't announced your plans publicly, your secret is safe with us.  

Annual General Meeting

Each year at the March Break, local unit delegates gather en mass to participate in the democratic functions which give direction and shape to the larger Association. Across the three days of the meeting, resolutions are debated and voted upon, elections are conducted, reports are presented, awards are announced, and more. 

This year, we would like to extend our collective gratitude to the following individuals whose dedication to advocacy for their colleagues and profession is commendable.

From Your Provincial Association

#KnowMore With Text Message Updates

Receive time-sensitive information on a variety of topics, including:

For Your Career


To assist members develop professionally, the Association has developed WebExperiences covering a wide range of topics and issues. A WebExperience is a an engaging approach to professional development which are delivered using live and interactive online sessions designed by teachers for teachers

Upcoming WebExperiences

Click on a Date to Register

Making the Grade With Awesome Assessment

Primary, Junior & Intermediate

Nature, Nurture & Nourish: Outdoor Learning in Kindergarten

Kindergarten Teachers

Before the School Bell Rings: Wellbeing Practices for Teachers

All Teachers

Faith and Wellness: A Daily Mental Health Resource

Elementary Teachers

OECTA Mini-Courses

What is a Mini-Course?

We are so glad you asked! They are short, one-month, online courses, requiring about 25 hours of time with a manageable workload that you complete on a schedule that works best for your busy life. Each Mini-Course costs only $50.

Offered on a variety of topics, they are led by fully qualified instructors and participants will get a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the course. Improve your quality of life in the classroom and try one!

Spaces are limited and pre-registration for each course is required. There is a two (2) Mini-Course limit per registrant.

Upcoming Mini-Courses

Courses Schedule: May 16-June 10. 

Registration: Opens March 28 - April 25.

Got Questions? Read the Mini-Course FAQ.

OECTA Office Hours

Office Hours Live is an opportunity for teachers to connect online with an experienced teacher leader about a particular topic. It is an opportunity to ask questions about practice and pedagogy, get advice, share teaching tips and network with other teachers. Office Hours Live provides a safe space for teachers to ask questions about topics that matter most to them. 

Got questions? We've got answers! Check out our frequently asked questions for more information about Office Hours LIVE.

Click on a Date to Register

Upcoming Office Hours - Interview Skills

PLEASE NOTE:  Office Hours Live sessions are scheduled for members to connect with experienced staff who will be able to respond to questions that may arise from the recorded presentation. The OH LIVE session is an opportunity to ask questions about how you can improve on your interview responses, or seek advice about the hiring process. Participants are expected to have previewed the presentation and come to the LIVE session prepared to ask questions, share experiences and engage in dialogue.

Promotional Material

Self-Driving Vehicles and the Future of Car Insurance in Canada

While fully automated self-driving vehicles are not yet available to the Canadian public, Ontario’s automated vehicle pilot program to test driverless vehicles on public roadways is already well underway. With the future of autonomous vehicles already here, many drivers are wondering what impact advanced vehicle technology will have on their car insurance. Here’s what you need to know.