When you think of a union you probably think of labourers like Longshoremen or Teamsters. The truth is that there are many types of union jobs including people driving a taxi, Weston employees, and many others. Although unions have their roots in labour, there are many unionized, white collar jobs. A good example of this is teachers' unions. Across Canada the teachers in public and many private schools are organized into unions that protect the rights of their members and help teachers to get fair contracts.
The primary purpose of a teachers' union is to negotiate contracts on behalf of its members. If teachers were not represented by a union then each teacher would have to negotiate his or her contract individually against a more powerful school. Instead, unions represent a large group of teachers and they can help to ensure that all the teachers get the best deal possible.
Pay is only one thing that teachers' unions will fight for. Other things include benefits, holidays, and working conditions. The benefits that teachers receive can include pay and other monetary benefits such as their pension. It can also include medical insurance such as a dental plan and eye glasses. In Toronto and other large cities an important working condition is usually class size. With budget cuts teachers are often forced to take on more students in a classroom. Teachers' unions will fight to keep the number of students in a classroom down. This benefits both teachers and students by improving the learning environment.
Teachers' unions will usually try to ensure that teachers receive regular professional development. Professional development can include courses and seminars that help teachers to improve and expand their skills, to introduce them to new teaching techniques and to keep them abreast of new developments in their area of specialization. A teacher's education is more in depth than a real estate license or a simple certificate, so it needs to be regularly updated.
Although most teachers unions enjoy good working relationships with their schools and school boards, there are times when the parties are not able to come to an agreement regarding a contract. When this happens it is possible that a strike can take place. Teachers' strikes can be highly disruptive as they force schools to close down and leave parents scrambling to find someone to look after their children.
Teachers are extremely important to everyone in Canada. From the veterinarian at the local clinic to astronauts travelling to outer space, anyone with an education has a teacher to thank. Teachers' unions help teachers to ensure that their students get a first rate education.