Posts tagged ‘Montreal Teachers Association (MTA)’

September 12, 2013

Podcast: Philosopher Charles Taylor, Teacher Robert Green and CPE Director Paula Lamarre Discuss the PQ’s Secular Charter on CBC Daybreak

Click here to download or listen to the podcast

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May 17, 2013

MTA Elections 2013: Comparing Presidential Candidates Robert Green and Peter Sutherland

By Robert Green

On his electoral campaign website, MTA presidential candidate Peter Sutherland offers a comparison of the differences between his candidacy and my own. While I will leave readers to judge the merits of Mr Sutherland’s comparison for themselves, I personally found that it did not mention many of the substantial matters upon which Mr Sutherland and I disagree.

In order to offer MTA members a more substantive comparison, please find below a brief summary of some of the key issues that Mr Sutherland omitted.

I hope the members of the MTA will find this to be informative.

For more information on my campaign or to read my electoral statement visit my campaign website http://rgreen.freeshell.org

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May 16, 2013

CJAD Teacher Panel Discusses Grade Inflation, Student Stress and Problems with Quebec’s Curriculum

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss grade inflation, student stress and the problems with Quebec’s curriculum with James Mennie of the Montreal Gazette, sitting in for CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher:

Click here to listen

May 5, 2013

Keeping the Members in the Dark: On the MTA’s Growing Culture of Secrecy

By Robert Green,

Over the last several years a growing number of Canadians have been expressing concern about what has been deemed as the Harper government’s “war on science”. By de-funding or dismantling such things as the long-form census and the federal government’s experimental lakes area, the Harper government is effectively ensuring that information that might cause citizens to question its political agenda never sees the light of day. This tendency of those in power to attempt to sunshine2hide information that might reflect poorly on them is the very reason why constitutional guarantees of government transparency are so highly valued in democratic societies.

Members of the Montreal Teachers Association might be surprised to learn that a similar tendency towards growing secrecy has been developing within their own union.

Recently it has come to light that the MTA was in April 2012 found to have acted in gross negligence by Quebec’s Labour Relations Commission in its representation of two MTA members that sought to grieve the fact that they had been denied  contracts that were subsequently given to teachers without proper qualifications. Though the grievance had been filed, it was rejected not because the case lacked merit but rather because the MTA had not filed the grievance within the 4 month limit prescribed by the collective agreement. In its ruling on the complaint against the MTA the Labour Relations Commission stated “in the present case, the Commission considers that failure of the Association to file the complaint within the time specified in the collective agreement, combined with the consequences of it on the plaintiffs, constitutes gross negligence.” The Commission ordered the MTA to pay all of the legal expenses incurred by these 2 teachers.

While members of the MTA should be concerned that their union’s leadership has been found by an independent body to have been grossly negligent in its representation of 2 MTA members, of greater concern is the fact that this was never reported to the membership!  Despite the fact that the ruling involved a financial award that will ultimately be paid by the members, the current leadership of the MTA apparently did not feel that this was relevent information for the members to know.

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March 18, 2013

An Open Letter to QPAT President Richard Goldfinch

Although retired, I maintain a keen interest in education and more particularly teachers’ unions; after reading your LIAISON ‘message’ it is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at your ignorance/naiveté. Maybe, it may be of value to you and your members if you could consider responses to the following questions.

1. QPAT is not 150 yrs old and it is not the same as Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers (PAPT). It came into being only after the abolition of CONFESSIONAL boards, about 14 yrs ago. The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) is a LINGUISTIC association formed by a subsequent MERGER of two associations, PAPT and PACT (representing Catholic teachers), which were based on religion not language, hence the name change. You are presuming no difference between QPAT and a defunct Protestant organization [PAPT], which was for most of its history run by administrators. It is no more  logical in considering QPAT as though it was a continuation of  PACT  either.

Question:

Will you admit your error and cease promoting the fiction of QPAT’s history?

2. I recall with utter disgust when QPAT Executive Director Alan Lombard informed the executive when, he claimed, he had been offered another job (Did Lombard tell you who wanted to hire him –or is that a secret that can never be revealed?), and threatened to leave unless he was allowed to ‘retire’, start collecting his pension and continue in his QPAT job. Despite certain protests, the board granted him his wish. Your predecessor, Serge Laurendeau, on principle, resigned from the executive. Following a demand by MTA President and QPAT executive member Ruth Rosenfield, QPAT gave him a RRSP in addition to his salary and his pension. The entire episode speaks oceans suggesting Lombard’s lack of commitment to serve teachers and the union movement. He always avoided paying any union dues whenever he could. Despite income which includes a six figure salary, his pension, a RRSP, free dental and health plans plus potential overtime pay, last year he still received a $7,000 pay increase. His income is about triple that of an average teacher.

Questions:

[a] Why did you support his salary increase last year?  Is this your idea of serving teachers, or are you more concerned with the QPAT staff?

[b] Were you aware of Lombard’s past actions?  Do you think those actions smacked of a disloyal and selfish employee, who should have been asked to leave?

[c] Would you have supported Ms. Rosenfield’s demand to give him a RRSP?

[d] Given his significant salary increase, will you ask that his  RRSP benefit be reconsidered?

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March 15, 2013

5 Reasons for EMSB Teachers to Vote for Change in the Montreal Teachers Association

  1. No plan to ensure that the new reduced maximums on class size are respected. The last collective agreement included significant reductions to class size. The Pearson Teachers Union has recently filed a grievance challenging the Pearson board’s continued practice of over-sizing classes. MTA members should be wondering why their union has not followed suit. With the grievance expected to be resolved by March MTA members should also be wondering how the PTU is able to resolve such a major grievance in less than a year when the MTA can’t seem to have its grievances resolved within five years! Further reading: “Pearson Teachers Union Files Grievance on Class Size. Why Has the MTA Not Followed Suit?” and “Where are the reductions in class sizes that we were promised?
  2. Failed to inform members about the system for absences that tracks teachers by the minute. Not only did the current leadership recommend that the members vote for an agreement containing this egregious insult to our professional dignity, they did so without even informing us that it was in the agreement! We need a union leadership that takes seriously its responsibility to inform the members before asking them to vote. We also need a union leadership that will vigorously defend our professional integrity. Further reading: “Surprise! The Collective Agreement We Voted On Is Not the One We Got
  3. No financial transparency. In the last year the current leadership has denied members access to a detailed breakdown of MTA finances, including some unusually large VISA bills. All members should have the right to scrutinize their own union’s finances in as much detail as they wish. After all, it is our money! Further reading: “Keeping the Members in the Dark: On the MTA’s Growing Culture of Secrecy
  4. No commitment to making the seniority/recall process more fair and transparent.  Leading up to the last round of local negotiations a motion was presented demanding that the school board account for the many teaching positions it “discovers” over the summer. Astonishingly this motion was vigorously opposed by the current leadership. Ms Rosenfield stated that she worried the school board might think we were “accusing them of something”. Apparently hurting the feelings of our employer is of greater concern than insuring our system of seniority is respected. Further readings: “Keeping the Members in the Dark: On the MTA’s Growing Culture of Secrecy
  5. Trading away our fundamental rights. In the last round of local negotiations the current leadership agreed to a clause granting the school board the ability to discipline teachers through forced transfer to another school. This vaguely worded clause grants our employer a new and arbitrary tool with which to attack individual teachers. While we all enjoy the ability to use our 2nd personal day on days that we teach (previously we could only use it on a ped day), such gains should never be made in ways that expose our members to arbitrary forms of discipline. Further reading: “Forced Transfer and the MTA Hunger Games
March 5, 2013

Where are the reductions in class sizes that we were promised?

By Robert Green

A slightly edited version of this Op-ed appeared in the March 4 edition of the Montreal Gazette

When the Quebec government makes a commitment to reduce class size, should school boards have the ability to subvert such commitments in order to protect their bottom line? This question is at the heart of a grievance filed recently by the Pearson Teachers Union (PTU) against the Lester B Pearson school board.

In the context of its last round of negotiations with the province’s teachers, the government of Quebec offered to make significant reductions to the maximum size of most classes in Quebec’s public schools.

Although the reductions focused mainly on the elementary level, they did extend up to the second year of high school. Schools in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods would see even greater reductions than those applied system-wide. By the end of its implementation in 2013/14 the plan would see most class size maximums reduced by 3 or
4. Classes in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods would be reduced by as many as 9 students.

This offer by government came as a welcome surprise to teachers and their unions. Most teachers have experienced the difference between a class of 26 and one of 30 and know the enormous impact a few additional students can have. Smaller groups allow teachers to make connections with each of their students and keep them all on track. Conversely, in larger groups students feel more anonymous and are hence more likely to act out or withdraw. In other words, larger groups force teachers to focus more on behaviour and discipline, while smaller groups allow us to focus on what we love, teaching.

But reducing class size is not merely about improving the working conditions of teachers; more importantly it is about improving the quality of public education. Indeed the body of evidence documenting the benefits of class-size reductions is enormous, particularly with regard to reductions at the elementary level. Reducing class size has been shown to have lasting positive effects on academic achievement, absenteeism and drop-out rates. It has also been found to be one of the only factors capable of closing achievement gaps based on socio-economic status. In small classes, poor kids do just as well as rich kids. Class-size reductions have even been found to have long-term public health benefits.

With so many potential benefits, it is not only teachers that should be concerned that classes in Quebec’s large English school boards do not seem to be getting any smaller. This is particularly true in a context where English school boards have been losing numbers to their French counterparts and the private sector. Ensuring that class size reductions are properly implemented ensures that the quality of education in English public schools is not merely protected, but improved.

School boards are able to avoid implementing class-size reductions by exploiting a clause in the teachers’ collective agreement which they claim allows them to pay teachers a tiny amount of compensation for oversized classes. It is this interpretation that is being challenged by the PTU, which contends that the collective agreement only permits oversized classes in very specific circumstances, none of which apply to large urban schools.

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February 12, 2013

Pearson Teachers Union Files Grievance on Class Size. Why Has the MTA Not Followed Suit?

By Robert Green | Published February 10, 2013

In an interview on CJAD this week Pearson Teachers Union (PTU) President John Donnelly announced that his union had filed a grievance contesting the oversized classes in his board. In explaining his reason for filing this grievance Donnelly explained that “over and above that [compensation paid to teachers] the collective agreement says you still can’t have oversized classes unless you have one of four reasons and none of these reasons apply to the Lester B. Pearson Board”. Donnelly goes on to mention that he expects a final decision on the grievance by March.

Donnelly is referring here to clause 8-4.01-c which states:

The board may exceed the maximums indicated only for one of the following specific reasons: the lack of premises in the school, the limited number of groups in the school, a shortage of qualified available personnel or the geographic location of the school.

The PTU is right to challenge the existence of oversized classes in its schools as the conditions allowing oversized classes clearly do not apply to large urban schools. The PTU is also right to be filing this grievance now. Protecting class size maximums is a particularly pressing matter for two reasons. The first is that the new collective agreement commits to significant reductions to the size of most classes in Quebec. By the end of its implementation in 2013/14 the planned reductions would see most class size maximums reduced by 3 or 4. Classes in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods would be reduced by as many as 9 students. The second reason this is a particularly urgent issue is that at a time when the English public system is losing students to the French system and the private sector, class-size reductions are one of the best ways to protect and improve the quality of education in Quebec’s English public schools. If we do not protect the quality of education in our schools, we will continue to lose students.

Given the importance of this issue for the working conditions of teachers, the learning conditions of students and the overall health of the English public system, members of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) should be wondering why their union has not followed suit and launched a similar grievance. Particularly since doing so would strengthen the case of our fellow teachers in the Pearson board. As a member of the QPAT executive committee, one wonders how MTA President Ruth Rosenfield would not have been informed of the details of this grievance, filed by another QPAT member-local way back in June. Being aware of the details, she would then presumably know that if the collective agreement prohibited oversized classes in the Pearson board, then for the very same reasons, it should do so for schools in the EMSB.

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December 4, 2012

Open Letter: MTA Members Should Vote ‘No’ on the MEPAF Referendum

By Robert Lavoie

At the last reps’ meeting, the executive of the MTA made it quite clear that their plan is to take the MEPAF money and use it to bolster the contingency fund that has arguably been poorly managed and is shrinking (from 352,000$ in 2008 to just over 120,000$). I am not entirely opposed to the transfer of this money to the MTA. However, I have some reservations about the process as well as the functionality.

The issue that I have with the process is that I have a hard time associating myself with what comes across as a less than honest act. The language that was used at the reps’ meeting and in the memo sent by Ruth portrays the MTA as employing ‘truthiness’. The line taken is that, as long as we SAY that we are going to administer the funds as they were before, we are legally in the right but that our intention is basically to use up this money in the contingency fund. But the MTA is not proposing administering the funds on behalf of only those MTA members that contributed to MEPAF. It is proposing mixing the MEPAF money into its existing contingency fund.

I think that it is important at this point to bring up the probable scenario of the day when all of the money received from MEPAF has been spent and our contingency fund is empty, and somebody applies for a MEPAF loan but there is no money to lend. What do we tell this unfortunate person whose money we have spent? Will (s)he sue us? Conversely, when the money is used up and the contingency fund is empty, how will non-MEPAF members of the MTA feel about potentially having to contribute more money to the MTA to bolster the contingency fund…so that we can give loans to
MEPAF people?

The contingency fund is an account that can be used at the discretion of the president, the treasurer and another member of the executive. I feel strongly that a close-knit trio of people whose decisions are shrouded in a cloak of secrecy is a bad formula for overseeing large amounts of money: other people’s money. It is important to remember that the executive of the MTA has shown itself to be hostile towards the sharing of financial documents with the membership. The scenarios for abuse are limitless.

Even if Ruth is worthy of the blind trust that many MTA reps have declared towards her, some day another person will be president of the union and the existence of such a structure invites abuse, leaving the question not ‘if’ but ‘when’ will it happen.

It is for these reasons that I am proposing that we vote no in the upcoming referendum.

 

September 22, 2012

Ruth Rosenfield’s Attempt to Deny MTA Members Access to Financial Documents Must Be Rejected: An Open Letter to All MTA Members

By Robert Lavoie
MTA Syndical Rep for Westmount High

Dear fellow members of the Montreal Teachers Association,

Sorry to say but…here we go again:

There is an upcoming motion at the next MTA reps meeting asking reps to interpret the constitution in such a way that denies us access to the financial records of our union.

By now you have received a document from the MTA containing the most recent unfounded accusations against me by MTA President Ruth Rosenfield.

I understand that all of this is very unpleasant but I feel that there is no other choice but to continue to fight for our rights within the MTA. When one member is denied access to how our hard earned money is spent, this is an affront to the rights of all members. Whatever you may have thought of Ms Rosenfield’s work in the past, her recent moves to limit access to financial documents must be opposed by all of those who believe that a union’s finances must be transparent to its members. Therefore, I have put together a few words about the issues and I would ask that if this raises any questions from you, that you not hesitate to bring them up with me, publicly or in private.

We are all dues-paying members of the MTA and deserve the respect of having access to information about how our money is being managed. It is a fact that the MTA is spending beyond its means and that this will have to be addressed before we reach critical financial instability. We ran a deficit last year of $61 000. By my calculation, at our current rate of overspending, the MTA will have exhausted its surplus in 3 years (8 years if you average out the deficits of the last 5 years). There is more to this problem than just overestimating membership numbers by fifty teachers (BTW, I would not blame the huge deficit on the membership calculation as much as spending $19,000 more than the budget approved last year for syndical leave – $19,000 more than we spent during the last local negotiations). The short-term fix of going for a deficit should be a reason for concern. It is important for us to see where cuts can be made.

I believe very strongly in transparency and the sharing of information so that members can make informed decisions – whether I like the information or not.

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May 21, 2012

Forced Transfer and the MTA Hunger Games

By Jim Wilson

A recent book and movie blockbuster is the “The Hunger Games”. Its theme was that a few individuals of the lower orders could be sacrificed in order to satisfy the whims of the ruling class. Maybe the Montreal Teachers Association [MTA] has been influenced by this idea.

This notion of sacrificing the few can be found in the recently signed agreement between the English Montreal School Board [EMSB] and the MTA. Unfortunately the new development seems to have flown under the rank and file teachers’ radar. This new clause, ‘offered’ by the EMSB, and accepted by the MTA, is that  a teacher can be compulsorily transferred to another school “at the discretion of the board”.  This transfer would supposedly “replace a serious disciplinary measure”; hitherto, disciplinary issues were issued through formal actions, such as letters of warning, reprimand or suspensions. If the matter were serious, why not handle it formally, and allow due process to proceed? If there is a problem in one school, why is a move to another the solution? Is it a way of sweeping a problem under the rug?

For those familiar with union/board relations south of the border, these developments should be ringing an alarm for teachers. In a recent case in Washington D.C., an experienced and respected teacher encountered some inappropriate school practices and revealed that ineligible students were being given diplomas. He sinned again by producing anti-cheating material by having the same test rearranged on different pages, but this produced a complaint from the administrator that the teacher was creating an “expectation that the students would cheat”. The teacher found himself ‘involuntarily transferred’ to another school on the other side of town, due to ‘educational philosophical differences’

There is a nagging suspicious that this new agreement provides the board with a tool to intimidate any teachers, who, like their American colleague, would consider  voicing  genuine concerns about the operation of a school, or, for that matter, the board itself. Normally, a disciplinary action  produces a grievance, left to be settled by an arbitrator, but in the EMSB/MTA agreement, the compulsory transfer replaces disciplinary action. How can the union dispute the right for board to act in this arbitrary manner? The union agreed to it.  Given the size of the board, a teacher’s travel obligations and costs could be seriously affected by a transfer to a new school. Compulsory transfers are, ostensibly, punishments, which do little for the teacher, the new staff or the students.

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April 15, 2012

Sign on! Open letter to Quebec’s labour federations to continue and intensify their support of the movement against tuition hikes

By Robert Green

Teachers in Quebec’s English school boards may be somewhat disappointed by the fact that their unions have been virtually silent on the unprecedented and historic movement against tuition fees that has swept the province in recent months.  After a motion to support this movement was proposed at a recent general meeting, Montreal Teachers Association president Ruth Rosenfield even helped ensure the motion wouldn’t pass by suggesting that a large number of members she had spoken to were actually in favour of the tuition hikes. Her supporters then dutifully voted that the union not take a position at all.

However, for those teachers that care that their students may one day be denied access to post-secondary education and that want Quebec’s labour unions to take a more active role in supporting the movement for accessible education, there is now an open letter that individuals can sign-on to in order to show their support. The letter is calling on Quebec’s labour federations to assume their historic role as defenders of social justice and to call for a national mobilization that could perhaps begin with a one-day Quebec-wide general strike.

To sign on to this open letter, click the following link: http://www.lettre-aux-syndicats.info/

 

March 14, 2012

What’s Wrong With QPAT’s Health Insurance?

By Robert Green

Mention ‘health insurance’ to any group of teachers within Quebec’s English school system and one is likely to hear complaints. There seems to be a widespread perception that this is an expensive plan for the coverage received. Some who have investigated the cost and coverage of individual health insurance plans offered by various companies have even claimed that they would be better off with such a plan rather than remaining with the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers’ (QPAT’s) group insurance.

For these reasons, whenever the subject of health insurance has come up at the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) reps assembly, a heated discussion has usually followed as reps attempt to express some of the frustration they hear from their members. Some of this frustration has been directed at Industrial Alliance and at the consulting company Mercer that recommends the use of Industrial Alliance to QPAT. Attempts by the MTA executive and professional staff to explain the role of these two organizations and the technical side of how the plan works seem to have been lost in the din of members expressing their frustrations about the plan.

In order to address this problem so that a more informed debate could take place, MTA Executive Assistant John Winrow invited many of those who had expressed concern about the plan to a meeting at the MTA office with a representative from QPAT.

Our Plan

The first thing that was explained at this meeting, that is important for the members of QPAT to understand, is that we the members of QPAT are the owners of this plan. This plan is not controlled by Industrial Alliance. We the members, through our association, QPAT, have determined what the coverage will be and how much it will cost. The role of Industrial Alliance is merely to administer the plan that we have created. Mercer, which was presented as one of the most knowledgeable and reputable insurance consultants in the province, is hired to ensure that the fees Industrial Alliance charges for this service are competitive.

The fact that this plan is owned and controlled by our own provincial association should mean that this is a plan that most teachers feel good about. As the meeting progressed several pieces of information came to light which could help explain why this is not the case.

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February 16, 2012

Ruth Rosenfield and the MTA Memory Hole

By Robert Green

In his classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell describes an authoritarian society constantly in the process of rewriting its own history. As an employee of this government’s propaganda department (ironically named The Ministry of Truth), the novel’s main character Winston is responsible for removing any information that might be seen as “inconvenient” to the regime. He and the other employees of the Ministry of Truth spend their days snipping such inconvenient information from news reports and tossing the snippings down pneumatic tubes, known as “memory holes”, where the information is never to be seen again.

The novel is ultimately a critique of the way political leaders attempt to manipulate information as a means of controlling people and maintaining their own power.

Members of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) might be surprised to learn that a similar process occurs within their own union.

Anyone who compares what transpires at a typical meeting of the MTA Reps Assembly with what appears in the minutes of these meetings will quickly notice that there is a major difference between the two. Namely, the minutes have been purged of any questions, discussions or debate that could in any way reflect negatively on the MTA’s leadership. The statements of those expressing critical opinions are all too often reduced to, “[Teacher X] spoke to the motion”. Meanwhile questions, discussions or debate that reflect positively on the MTA’s leadership are given disproportionate space within the minutes.

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December 8, 2011

Salary Provisions of the New Contract Demystified – Part Two

By Robert Green

Part one of this article discussed the core guaranteed salary increases in the current collective agreement. Now comes the fun part: explaining the rather convoluted formula for potential additional increases and what this all means in the big picture.

In addition to the guaranteed 6 percent over five years the agreement also contains several additional increases triggered by growth in Quebec’s nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What the heck is ‘nominal’ GDP?

The GDP is the basic measure of economic growth. There are two ways economists look at the GDP. ‘Real’ GDP presents a picture of economic growth adjusted for the effects of inflation. As inflation changes from year to year this allows economists to compare one year’s economic growth with another. This is the most commonly referred to measure of economic growth. ‘Nominal’ GDP on the other hand is a measure of economic growth that includes the effects of inflation (on all goods not simply those used to determine the Consumer Price Index). Therefore nominal GDP can be understood as a composite of real GDP plus inflation.

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