Posts tagged ‘Ontario’

December 11, 2012

Kill Bill 115: Where is the Ontario labour movement going?

by Doug Nesbitt | Published December 7, 2012 by

In the coming week, Ontario’s teachers, education workers and students will be turning up the heat on the Liberal minority government and Bill 115, which imposes a concessionary bargaining agenda on teachers unions and the school boards, and allows the cabinet to change tentative agreements and stop strikes without even legislative oversight.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has given notice that it will begin a series of one-day district-wide strikes in every public school board district before Christmas, beginning Monday December 10 in the Avon-Maitland and North East Districts. This will affect small Ontario towns and regions surrounding Stratford, Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and Kapuskasing.

On the same day, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will be implementing what is by far its most coordinated work-to-rule campaign. All volunteer activities and extracurriculars will end, and teachers will show up 15 minutes before classes start and leave 15 minutes after classes end. This latter work-to-rule action is based on the 1990 Education Act, Regulation 298, Section 3.7 and Section 20(d).

And, for the first time since late September, a series of high school walkouts are being planned for Monday in York Region, London, and elsewhere. This will be the second wave of walkouts since late September when over thirty high schools and even elementary schools witnessed student actions against Bill 115.

The Journey to December 10
The road to ETFO’s strike action and OSSTF’s province-wide work-to-rule has been a long, complicated one. Passed in September, Bill 115 has predictably prolonged, complicated and escalated the labour conflict in Ontario, whereas free collective bargaining may have mitigated the effects and probability of labour conflict altogether. However, the unpopular Liberal minority government is committed to saving $2 billion in labour costs to reduce a $15 billion deficit (after reducing corporate taxes from 14 to 11.5 since 2009). The Liberals are now embroiled in a leadership contest after Dalton McGuinty decided to abandon what looks like a sinking ship and prorogue the legislature at the same time.

The weakness of the government is only matched by the disunity and confusion of the teachers unions. Back in July, OECTA’s leadership signed a concession-laden Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario government without consultation or ratification from the membership. OSSTF, ETFO and CUPE rightfully denounced the OECTA leadership and the MOU. The government then used the MOU as a framework for the concessions imposed on all other teachers and education workers through Bill 115, even though the school boards, not the government, bargains with the unions. Even the associations representing all of Ontario’s school boards protested Bill 115’s interference in collective bargaining.

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October 20, 2012

CHRY ‘News Now’ Interview with Robert Green on the Problems with Quebec’s 4-Tiered Education System

CHRY is the York University campus/community radio station. To listen to the ‘News Now’ feature interview with Robert Green on the problem’s with Quebec’s 4 tiered education system  click here. (To download as mp3 right-click and select ‘save link as’)

September 18, 2012

How to Fix the Schools

By JOE NOCERA. Published September 17, 2012 by The New York Times

“What is also a given in other countries is that teaching has a status equal to other white-collar professionals. That was once true in America, but Tucker believes that a quarter-century of income inequality saw teachers lose out at the expense of lawyers and other well-paid professionals. That is a large part of the reason that teachers’ unions have become so obstreperous: It is not just that they feel underpaid, but they feel undervalued. Tucker believes that teachers should be paid more — though not exorbitantly. But making teacher education more rigorous — and imbuing the profession with more status — is just as important. “Other countries have raised their standards for getting into teachers’ colleges,” he told me. “We need to do the same.”

Second, he believes that it makes no sense to demonize unions. “If you look at the countries with the highest performance, many of them have very strong unions. There is no correlation between the strength of the unions and student achievement,” he says.

Instead, he points to the example of Ontario, where a decade ago, a new government decided to embrace the teachers’ unions — to treat them as partners instead of as adversaries. The result? Ontario now has some of the best student achievement in the world. (Alas, relations between teachers and the government have recently deteriorated after a two-year wage freeze was imposed.)

High-performing countries don’t abandon teacher standards. On the contrary. Teachers who feel part of a collaborative effort are far more willing to be evaluated for their job performance — just like any other professional. It should also be noted that none of the best-performing countries rely as heavily as the U.S. does on the blunt instrument of standardized tests. That is yet another lesson we have failed to learn.”

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September 12, 2012

Dear Ontario teachers:

By Nora Loreta. Published September 12 by

I know you’re angry right now. You should be. That your bargaining process has been interrupted by the reprehensible actions of the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in Ontario should outrage you and all Ontarians who support you.

I want to acknowledge your pain. Having never had a student wet himself beside me, having never had to separate a fight where girls’ hair is strewn across the floor, having never had to explain why the Merchant of Venice doesn’t suck, having never had to stop myself from swearing for more than a few days at a time….I know that what you do I could never do. What you do, most people can’t do. Even with the shitty teachers lumped in, the service you give to the community deserves to be acknowledged, honoured and celebrated.

Somehow, this message hasn’t gotten to Dalton McGuinty. Somehow his teacher-wife who I assume he talks to has withheld this vital information from him whenever they chat. Somehow his memories of high school (likely awkward) have clouded his judgement. Values of fairness, respect and process have been lost or forgotten.

Today was a terrible day in the history of Ontario.

In part, you are to blame. You spend too much time with students. Unlike the current government, you don’t issue a press release every time little Preethy learns to spell or big Hugh walks into class on time. You don’t brag to the world that another cohort of students have come and gone from your classroom with more knowledge than before. If you took the government’s approach to public relations, you would release an advisory about every child, every three days, even if medium-sized James was still a terrible fractioner.

In part, your union representatives are to blame. They thought that only Hudak could be as bad as Mike Harris. They were wrong. They thought that *maybe* Dalton was different. Despite having taken no action on much of the waste and poor policy ideas of the Harris years (like EQAO), they thought -just maybe- Dalton’ll respect us.

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August 29, 2012

Thousands of Ontario teachers, support staff ready to take on Liberals over ‘anti-collective bargaining’ bill

By John Bonnar, Published August 28, 2012 by

Ontario teachers, support staff, parents and other unionists came to Queen’s Park on Tuesday with one message for the Premier and his Education Minister: Negotiate. Don’t legislate.

Thousands came to express their anger with the government’s proposed “anti-collective bargaining” bill, a piece of legislation teachers and educational support workers called “unprecedented in its attack on bargaining rights.”

The provincial government intends to introduce legislation this week that, if passed, would result in:

– Zero per cent salary increases in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

– All teachers will take a 1.5 per cent pay cut in the form of three unpaid professional development days so that younger teachers will continue to move through the grid according to their experience and additional qualifications.

– Agreement to restructure the grid with a view to long-term, sustainable savings.

– Elimination of the current retirement gratuity for payment of unused sick days that was responsible for a $1.7 billion liability for school boards.

– A restructured short-term sick leave plan that would include up to 10 sick days. This sick leave plan would benefit younger teachers by providing income protection for serious illness and improved maternity leave provisions.

In a statement released on Monday, the government said that Bill 115, The Putting Students First Act, will save the province $2 billion.

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August 29, 2012

Walkom: McGuinty teacher gambit attacks the middle class

By Thomas Walkom, Published August 29, 2012 by the Toronto Star

Dalton McGuinty’s attack on teachers’ trade union rights is ultimately an attack on the middle class. It is misguided and unnecessary.

It is also unfair.

McGuinty’s archly named Putting Students First bill is unnecessary because it seeks to end, through a two-year strike ban, a labour dispute that does not exist.

Teachers are not on strike. Nor according to the leaders of the two major unions involved, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, do they intend to go on strike.

They may have walked away from province-wide talks with the Liberal government. But as required under Ontario labour law, they have been bargaining with the local school boards that employ them.

Certainly the boards didn’t ask Queen’s Park to step in. Most apparently thought they could reach deals with their employees.

So why is the government attacking teachers?

My astute colleague Martin Regg Cohn has pointed to the politics of the situation. The Liberals are desperate to win two Sept. 6 by-elections in order to gain a majority of seats in the provincial legislature. They reckon that taking on the unions will play particularly well in one riding, Kitchener-Waterloo, that has traditionally elected Tories.

But beyond this, the McGuinty Liberals are suffering from the same myopia that seems to affect so many provincial governments.

They are focusing on the province’s deficit, now $15 billion, rather than the economic circumstances that created this shortfall.

Those circumstances have to do with a faltering economy that through job loss and weakened consumer demand is starving government of revenues.

A far-sighted government would focus on restarting the economy and raising those revenues. A near-sighted government, like this one, focuses on reducing spending alone — with no thought as to how such cuts might further hobble the overall economy.

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August 21, 2012

Education and the 2012 Quebec Election: Part Five – How are the Parties Proposing to Lower Quebec’s Dropout Rate?

By Robert Green

Thus far this series has looked at where Quebec’s political parties stand on education funding, curriculum reform, school autonomy and the abolition of school boards. This article will examine how each of the parties proposes to lower Quebec’s high school dropout rate.

The alarmingly high dropout rate has been Quebec’s perennial education issue for at least the last twenty years. It seems every year or so a new set of statistics emerges documenting, yet again, that no significant progress has been made to reduce the chronically high number of dropouts. This begins the public hand wringing by Quebec’s political class and is usually followed a few months later by some poorly funded government half-measure, announced to great fanfare. A year or so later another set of statistics emerges and so the cycle begins again. There are many political issues in Quebec that have a tendency to provoke cynicism. This is certainly one of them.

Clearly this is a problem that cannot be solved by half measures. Although not all the factors affecting dropout rates are within government control, governments are far from powerless in affecting significant reductions. Numerous measures that are within government control have been identified as contributing to reducing dropout rates. Such factors include: class size; the availability of extra-curricular activities; the existence of programs to counter homophobia, racism, bullying and intimidation; the severity of school discipline codes; the availability of psychologists, drug counsellors, social workers, and other professional support staff. The avenues for government to explore to solve this problem are many; the problem is not a lack of options, it is a lack of political will.

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August 14, 2012

Mocking McGuinty…


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August 4, 2012

Walkom: What’s behind McGuinty’s threat to legislate teachers back to work

By Thomas Walkom, published August 03, 2012 by The Toronto Star

“And then into this Eden rides Premier Dalton McGuinty. Teachers may not be on strike. But as the Star reported Thursday, he says he’ll legislate them back to work by the beginning of September anyway.


Welcome to the new era of labour relations in Canada. In the past, governments waited until labour disputes began before intervening. Even then they did so reluctantly, saving their statutory power for strikes and lockouts that were important.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative government broke new ground when it started legislating Air Canada workers back to work just for threatening to strike.

But McGuinty’s Ontario Liberal government has gone even further. It’s promising to legislate an end to a non-existent strike that has never been threatened.

No wonder the school boards are confused. Toronto’s says it can’t meet the government’s new and arbitrary end-of-August deadline because its negotiators are on holiday.

The teachers unions (save for one which has already signed with the government) are just ticked.

They sense, correctly in my view, that McGuinty is looking for an excuse to override normal collective bargaining and impose cutbacks in teachers’ wages and benefits.”

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July 8, 2012

Union presidents attack Ontario government for deal with Catholic teachers

By John Bonnar, posted July 7, 2012 at

“’This agreement ensures Ontario’s Catholic education system will continue to provide an exceptional learning environment for our students while achieving desired outcomes for our members and addressing the government’s fiscal concerns.’

But Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario president Fred Hahn, has grave concerns about how this agreement will affect students in classrooms across the province.

CUPE represents 55,000 school board support workers in every elementary and high school as well as Catholic and French language schools in Ontario.

‘Any attempt to force this agreement on other workers in this sector would be a mistake that the government should not make,’ said Hahn during Friday’s press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto.

His members have proposed alternative ways to achieve savings and efficiencies without gutting collective agreements.

‘(But) the government is not prepared to listen to creative ideas. They’re only interested in their own parameters.’

School boards across Ontario have already announced hundreds of layoffs, with more planned in the future.

‘The Liberals cannot say that they are protecting our education system when they are removing millions of dollars from it,’ he said.

‘Without the teachers, secretaries, custodians, instructors, education assistants, the food service workers and the bus drivers there is no education system.’”

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March 8, 2012

Liberals in Ontario and BC Launch All Out Assaults on Teachers

By Doug Little, posted on The Little Education Report

In both Ontario and BC the Liberal Party has launched an all out assault on organized teachers that will lead to serious political blowback on both parties. In Ontario, Liberal Premier David Peterson forced increases in teacher pension contributions and lost the next election to the NDP. Bob Rae attacked teachers and public servants with the Social Contract. He lost the next election decisively proving there is no public thank you for these policies. Mike Harris (1995-2003) launched his assault on teachers and civil servants and managed two terms for the PCs but lost ground in 1999 and could not personally survive. He was forced to step down and pass his government to Ernie Eves who could not salvage a win in 2003.

The Liberal Party (OLP) has been successful since 2003 primarily by adding teachers, nurses and other public professionals and civil servants to the Liberal party universe at the expense mainly of the NDP. It seems Premier McGuinty is prepared to dynamite this relationship and does so at his peril. If he does not back down almost immediately he will condemn the next OLP leader to a third place finish at best. Since Ontario is the last real ridout of Liberalism in Canada, notwithstanding a sprinkle of Maritime seats, he could be in the process of signing the suicide note of the Liberal Party in Canada.

In BC, a similar attack on the teachers and public education by WAC Bennett in 1972 ushered in the Dave Barrett NDP government. “Wacky”Bennett restricted local government’s ability to raise taxes, attacked teacher tenure, put ceilings on arbitration awards and prompted a province wide strike by BCTF in 1971. The angry teachers backed the NDP in the 1972 election and Bennett was swept out. The NDP is significantly ahead of the BC Liberals and their unpopular leader Christy Clark at the present time. The latest Robbins poll shows BCNDP 45%, BC Lib 29%, BC Conservatives 19%, and Green 7%. This latest move could doom the BC Liberals.

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March 8, 2012

“Bankruptcy Expert” James Farley to Head Ontario Government Negotiating Team

Unprecedented Government Attack on Ontario Teachers

The provincial government has appointed former Justice James Farley to spearhead the implementation of its agenda of forcing concessions from teachers in their upcoming contract negotiations. The current collective agreements between teachers and school boards across the province expire on August 31.

James Farley is Senior Counsel with McCarthy Tétrault, a law firm that specializes in providing legal advice to corporate clients in bankruptcy and restructuring cases. Before joining McCarthy Tétrault in 2006, James Farley was an Ontario Superior Court Justice. It was Justice Farley who presided over the Stelco bankruptcy proceedings which, amongst other things, were used to try and force Local 1005 USW in Hamilton to open its contract and make concessions to Stelco.

Local 1005 refused to make concessions and fought to expose what Stelco was up to. Stelco was far from broke — steel prices were up and its order books were full throughout the bankruptcy restructuring. Yet Steclo’s suppliers, unsecured creditors and common shareholders were shafted. Secured creditors came out okay and a few hucksters made the big score. Because of Local 1005’s resistance to these schemes, Stelco’s CCAA bankruptcy protection was thoroughly exposed as a fraud and Justice Farley earned notoriety for his role in overseeing and giving his judicial seal of approval to the whole sordid affair.

The provincial government recruited this “expert” in “bankruptcy restructuring” to try and overwhelm teachers in these contract negotiations.

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