Niagara OT Local hosting a CLiFF screening!

The ETFO Niagara OT Local will be hosting a screening of a selection of films from the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF), on Sunday, November 29th from 3pm - 5pm, at the ETFO office in Fonthill.  We will be screening seven short films ranging from "Dear John" about the closing of John Deere in Welland, to "Invisible Force: Women workers in Pakistan" which chronicles the story of millions of women workers in Pakistan who are unaccounted for in official figures.

Films on schedule (click here for descriptions):
Six Weeks of Solidarity,
Dear John,
Hold the Line,
Painting Red Square,
Northland: Long Journey,
Invisible Force: Women workers in Pakistan,
Just another cog in the machine

This event is open to all, so bring friends and family!

Refreshments will be provided.

For new members (or members who want to learn more) we're also hosting a Welcome to ETFO event from 1pm-3pm prior to the CLiFF screening.

ETFO's position on Full-Day Kindergarten

Please view the above message from Sam Hammond, President of ETFO Provincial. In it, he outlines ETFO's position on full-day kindergarten, and our concerns about the government's plan to have certified teachers only teach half-day kindergarten, and non-certified personnel in charge of students for the remainder of the school day.

As Sam points out, if we allow this to happen in kindergarten, it sets the precedent for it to happen in any grade.

For more information on the full-day kindergarten issue, click here.

UPDATE: Success!

Employment Insurance for OTs

Employment Insurance Information Session
Thursday June 20, 2019, 4:30-5:30
Location: ETFO-OT Office, Fonthill

Do I qualify for EI when ETFO is engaging in strike action such as work-to-rule?

Yes.  Unless the reason you are unemployed is because of strike action (such as a full withdrawal of services rather than work-to-rule), you still qualify for EI.

Similarly, our intermittent one day strikes in 2020 don't disqualify you for EI.  When EI asks if you're unemployed due to labour dispute, they're looking to see if you're currently in a picketing situation that's ongoing.  So just answer No to that question.

Do you have to declare strike pay as income?

No.  Strike pay is not considered earned income (it's basically a payout from a strike fund you've contributed to through your union dues).  View the chart of income types for EI here.  Were you available for work?  Yes.   No one was going to stop you if you were called to work somewhere; many of our members were unable to attend due to working their second job that day.

How many hours do you need? How many weeks will you get?

The number of hours required to qualify for employment insurance varies according to the unemployment rate in a region. Similarly, the number of hours you have accumulated will determine how many weeks of EI you qualify for. Each teaching day is 8 hours.

To look these up online, use the EI postal code search tool.

As of May 21, 2019, for the economic region of St. Catharines, 665 hours (83.5 days) are required to qualify for EI, which will entitle you to a minimum number of 15 weeks of benefits and a maximum number of 38 weeks.  As tourism jobs pick up for the summer, Niagara's unemployment rate dips, which means the required number of hours will likely be higher at the end of the school year.  Always use the postal code search tool (above) to get the most up to date numbers.

The maximum number of hours required is 700.  Having more hours than required will give you more weeks of entitlement.  For maternity and sickness benefits leave, 600 hours are required.

What's our "Chapter" number?

When you're going through the EI application, you'll note that some of their terminology differs from ours.

Our union is ETFO - Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, and our Local ("Chapter" in EI parlance) is Niagara Occasionals.

What's your Job Title?

This is another one where EI has terminology different from ours.  Here's how it translates:

Daily occasional teacher = "Elementary School Supply Teacher"
Long Term occasional teacher = "Elementary School Substitute Teacher"
Permanent teacher = "Elementary School Teacher"

Getting your Record of Employment

Your Record of Employment will be automatically filed by DSBN once the final pay period of June has been processed.  The ROE will be sent electronically to EI, so no action is required on your part.

If you already have filed an EI claim based on another job, EI will take the ROE from DSBN, re-evaluate your claim, and adjust accordingly (upwards, as there'll be more income).

All Records of Employment issued by our Board are submitted to Service Canada via the web - so you will not be receiving a hard copy of your record.  It can be viewed in your My Service Canada account.

When applying for Employment Insurance benefits, and asked the question, "Have you received your Record of Employment?" answer NO to this question. The Service Canada office is aware of the fact that DSBN files all Records of Employment via the web and will not be expecting a hard copy from you.

Variable Best Weeks, previously known as "Small Weeks"

Previously called "small weeks", these are weeks in which you earned less than $225, and they are excluded from the 26 week average EI uses when determining your weekly payment (this increases your payment by increasing your weekly average earnings).  Unlike with the previous small weeks, your Variable Best Weeks should be automatically calculated from the electronically submitted ROE.  For more information, click here.

What do you do when the school year starts or if you get an LTO?

You can continue to collect EI while working part-time, so continue to file your bi-weekly EI reports.  This keeps your claim active for weeks when you don't get called, as well as Christmas and March Break.  Note that if you're on an LTO, you DO NOT get paid by DSBN over Christmas and March Break because your year-long salary is compressed into a daily rate paid over 194 school days.

If you earn enough in a week to completely eliminate your EI payment that week (calculated by earning more than your EI payment plus 25% or $50 [this is now double 90% of your claim plus 10% of your claim], whichever is greater), that week won't be deducted from your claim's number of benefit weeks, effectively extending your claim.  However, a claim can still be open a maximum of 52 weeks.  It's much simpler to keep your claim open through the school year than to reactivate it at Christmas and March Break.

Example of working while collecting EI:

EI weekly payment (before taxes): $350
90% of $350 = $315
The first 90% of your claim's earnings are deducted at 50%, so you can earn $630.
The final 10% of your claim's earnings are deducted dollar for dollar, so you can earn $35.
So with a weekly payment of $350, in order to completely eliminate your EI payment in a week (which means it doesn't get used up), you need to earn $665.00.
In 2016-17, our rate of pay is $229.40, meaning you would have to work 3.0 days in a week to eliminate your EI payment that week.

If EI pays you even $1 in a week, it counts towards your eligible weeks of payments.  However, if you earn enough that you don't receive EI, your claim is effectively "extended" because you will not have used up a week of entitlement.  In the example above, you would need to earn $665 ($630 + $35) to eliminate a week's EI payment and not use up a week of entitlement.

In occasional teaching terms, in the example above you would need to teach 3.0 days in a week to eliminate the EI payment that week.  More details on working while on a claim are here.

Knowing these numbers might allow you to manage your claim to some degree; if you have any control over the hours you work in a part-time job, you might find that taking a couple extra hours in any week you've taught one day will push you over the limit for that week and allow you to save that week of entitlement for a week where you don't have any work at all and can receive the maximum EI payment that week.

Another tool for managing your claim is the payment refusal.  If you know in any given week that you've earned enough to reduce your EI payment quite a bit but not enough to eliminate it, you can refuse payment that week and save that week of entitlement for later.  Unfortunately, payment refusal can only be done by calling EI on the phone to talk to someone.

Applying for EI

You should apply for EI once the last day of school is done. It may take a while for the Board to get your ROE in since our last pay date is in July, but EI will backdate things to your date of application.

To apply for EI, click here.

During the application process, indicate that you have not received a ROE, and when it asks you for a reference code (case-sensitive), enter one of the following codes (depending upon when you're applying):

For summer 2018, the reference code is no longer required.

Income Taxes while on EI

Since collecting EI essentially counts as a second job that creates a T4 slip for you at the end of the year, you need to be aware of the tax implications.  EI automatically claims your basic personal tax exemptions, so any additional income from an employer that also claims your basic personal tax exemptions could result in an unexpected tax bill at the end of the year.

The solution to this is to file TD1 (Federal) and TD1ON (Provincial) forms with DSBN, and claim zero (0) for your basic personal tax exemptions on both forms.  This will mean more taxes coming off your paycheque, but prevent the bill for those taxes coming due all at once.

You can find the TD1 and TD1ON forms through the DSBN Employee Portal.  Log into the portal, then click on the Departments tab, then choose Payroll Services, and click on Forms.  Once the forms are completed, submit them to the Payroll department at DSBN.

Further Resources

If you have any further questions about EI, e-mail Mark and he'll do his best to answer them for you. Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) also has some good pamphlets on EI here.

For information on pregnancy and parental leaves, you can read ETFO's Guide to Pregnancy and Parental Leave.

For ETFO's Member's Guide to EI, click here.

Important Upcoming Meetings

We have two very important meetings coming up. First, on May 20th, at 5pm at the Four Points Sheraton on Schmon Parkway by Brock University, we're having a membership vote on the proposed collective agreement. There's a lot to be said and discussed at this meeting, so we hope you'll all show up and vote!

Also, on May 25th, we have our Local Annual General Meeting. It will again be held at the Quality Hotel on Ontario St. in St. Catharines, starting around 4:30. We'll be providing you with dinner, and since we've had such a busy year, there's a ton of stuff to talk about. As always, we'll try to keep it interesting. Last year we had about 100 people there, let's see if we can match that or do even better!

Notice of proposed Local constitutional amendment:

Our current Article 12.1 reads as follows: Resolutions to the Federation's annual meeting shall be passed at a Local Executive meeting prior to the date required by the Federation.

Resolution to our Local AGM:

That Article 12.1 be amended to read: "12.1 Resolutions to the Federation's annual meeting shall be passed at a Local general meeting prior to the date required by the Federation."

Rationale: This resolution is just housekeeping to make our Constitution accurately reflect the procedures required. We've been following proper procedure already, this just fixes the constitution so that it doesn't mislead anyone in the future. Essentially we're crossing the t's and dottings the i's. ;-)

DSBN Road Race - Volunteers Needed!

DSBN Road Race Logo
The annual DSBN Road Race raises funds to support the Education Foundation of Niagara and Niagara Nutrition Partners. Last year the Road Race was able to donate $5000 to each charity. Financial support for the Road Race is provided by its title sponsor Pen Financial Credit Union and other sponsors. This year the Road Race is being held on April 26th.

In addition to needing participants, the DSBN Road Race needs volunteers to make it all happen. This type of event is an ideal volunteer opportunity for occasional teachers. Instead of volunteering in a school doing things you really should be getting paid for (working in schools is our profession!), the DSBN Road Race gives you the chance to partner on an equal basis with other education workers and community members in an event focused on improving conditions for students within our schools.

To sign up to participate or to volunteer, go to the DSBN Road Race web site, and click on either the registration or volunteer page tabs to get the appropriate sign-up forms. Forms are due by April 9th, but they'll happily accept last-minute volunteers. Particularly, there's a need for course marshalls.

2% Pay Raise and Retro Pay March 27th

On your Friday, March 27th paycheque, you will receive a 2% pay raise retroactive to the first day of the 2008/09 school year. Our new daily rate going forward will be $200.75

This pay raise, given at this time, fulfills one of the terms of the provincial agreement signed by ETFO. However, we have not yet negotiated a new Local contract. Our contract expired August 31, 2008, and while we've put in a whole lot of work preparing for negotiations, at this point we're still in the beginning stages of negotiating a new Local agreement.

Going forward, we still have many Local working conditions issues to negotiate.

Be looking for Bulletin #8!!

Coming to mailboxes everywhere: Our new Bulletin! This is an important one in that it gives you all the information related to the Provincial Framework and what we are doing about it in Niagara!

Here's Gary's addendum to the official Bulletin from provincial, where he talks about where we stand as a Local.

New Website!

As you'll have already noticed, I've rolled out a new version of It looks a bit different, but you can still access all of our content using the menu on the right. (Our old site is still accessible, at

Apart from the cosmetic changes, there are a couple of interesting new features. First, our website now has an RSS feed to which you can subscribe. This will let you view new content to the site using a feed aggregator such as Google Reader. Another new feature is the tumblelog. A tumblelog is a blog intended for short entries. You can read more about the concept here, but the short explanation is that the Executive will post updates about various things in the tumblelog which don't necessarily merit a newsletter article or Yahoo group announcement.

What really merited the site update, though, are the behind-the-scene features. The new site is based on the Blogger platform, and what that means is that any Executive member will be able to edit the site and add content quite easily. While it's been handy to have me as our resident geek, the new site should be less dependent on me (in other words, if I get hit by the proverbial bus, the web site won't come to a crashing halt). I expect that the richness of our content will increase as the other Executive members become familiar with the system and begin adding material.

Enjoy the new site. If you have any feedback or suggestions for content, feel free to e-mail me.