QPAT, Pay Gaps and the Scent of Bovine Excrement

An open letter to QPAT President Richard Goldfinch by Jim Wilson

Mr. President,

Quebec’s teachers are the lowest paid in Canada –oh, and the highest taxed too.

You sometimes state that QPAT goes back to 1864—that was PAPT, but just go back to the PAPT in the 1980’s  and compare it with today’s QPAT.

At that time, PAPT had a membership of about 8,000, as does QPAT today, but there were some staffing differences: there was a president, and 4 executive assistants. Today, QPAT has a president, an executive director and 5 executive assistants; a 50% increase in the hired help. The only person, who remains from that time, is the present executive director, Alan Lombard, who has been in charge of the staff. Has he been so incompetent that he needs more staff for an organization that is the same size as in past?  Maybe he operates like a school board –as student numbers decline, hire more board staff.

Over the same period, the demand on teachers has increased, but salaries have lagged. Not that Lombard would have ever noticed; he was too busy looking after Lombard.  Although he was a teacher on syndical leave, he carefully avoided paying any union dues during his decades of working for the union—[how is that for irony]. He changed his pension from the teacher plan to that of an administrator; how did that happen? His ‘loyalty’ to the union cause was best exemplified with an ultimatum that he would  leave almost immediately for an unnamed job, unless he was user204100_pic55146_1275029014allowed to retire, collect his pension and keep his job. He could have retired and taken the mystery job. Why not? Could it be that he had conjured this unnamed job offer as a ploy to double dip? Maybe I am just a skeptic, but his story had a whiff of bovine excrement. Why  can’t he clear the air about the job offer, is it a state secret?   However, some of executive members’ olfactory senses worked differently to mine; concerned about the prospect of his impoverishment they added a RRSP [why is that now removed from a line item on the budget?] His income is more than triple that of an average teacher. Mike Duffy would be jealous.

With teachers having such poor contracts, why does QPAT pay such seemingly inflated salaries? Why not compare QPAT’s salaries to other Quebec teachers unions? Are they higher, or lower, or the same; publish them so teachers will know. If it is such a tough job, how is it that QPAT executives never want to retire —really retire that is. Do Lombard and his band of assistants ever feel the need to take a stress leave? As for salaries giving the best results, the MTA paid the highest salary for a local president; they managed to negotiate a local contract which is probably the worst in the province for job security.

Back to those low paid teachers. You are sending out a document as the first phase of consultation for the next round of negotiations, supposedly to formulate a demand.  It seems unlikely that the individual teachers’ responses will be used for anything more than a fig leaf to cover for a negotiator claiming that the members have been consulted. Why bother anyway, when QPAT’s members pay the French union almost $400,000 each year to negotiate the provincial contract, and with the exception of a few local matters, QPAT finish with virtually the same deal.

Teachers need a huge improvement in pay and conditions and a sense of a future. Regarding jobs, start dealing with the access to English schools –isn’t the official position of QPAT [aka PAPT] freedom of choice, or are you afraid to state that?  If you deny you have that policy, just what is the policy? The four individuals running for the executive seem oblivious to the implications of a shrinking membership and the plight of new teachers searching for jobs in a disappearing English system.

As I have asked you previously, given that a declining membership means higher fees to support QPAT, what are your plans to reduce expenditures? Giving the membership a break, an end to QPAT’s rip off of $300,000 to administer their health plans, would be a start.

Virtually your only public statement was a ludicrous support for the school boards’ demand for higher taxes. Given that teachers pay you a significant salary, fringe benefits and they also pay your rent, maybe you and Lombard can afford increased school taxes but most teachers are financially squeezed.

I hope that local presidents start asking some pertinent questions, and demanding responses. Put the answers in the next Liaison, there is little content in it normally and it might be worth reading.

Jim Wilson

President Pearson Teachers Union [retired]

18/11/13

[Ed’s note: As this is an open forum Mr Goldfinch is welcome to comment on this post or submit a response to be published as a separate post]

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