Posts tagged ‘Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT)’

May 15, 2016

Common Front deal for Quebec public sector workers wasn’t as good as advertised

A closer look at the agreement reveals inflated numbers. Who will be held accountable?

By Robert Green | Published April 18, 2016 by Ricochet English and 26 avril 2016 by Ricochet français

Now that the dust has settled on Quebec’s negotiations with public sector workers, it’s time for public sector workers to look back on the campaign that was.

For the 400,000+ members of the Common Front, a coalition of public sector unions, one issue in particular demands critical reflection: the manipulative and dishonest way that information about the tentative agreement on salary was presented to the media, the public and the Common Front’s own members.

In general, the act of consciously making untrue statements is considered to be something for which politicians should be held accountable. Many a powerful world leader has fallen as a result of dishonest behaviour, including most recently the president of Iceland. The question for Common Front members is whether this same principle should apply to leaders of labour federations.

To illustrate just how dishonest the Common Front was in presenting the salary agreement to the public, let’s compare it to how this same salary agreement was presented by another labour federation, La Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which is not part of the Common Front.

Spinning the deal

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April 19, 2016

Motion to Censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch

In order to hold our syndical leadership accountable for the blatantly dishonest way that information about the negotiated agreement on salary was presented to the public, the teachers of Westmount High School have submitted the following motion to be debated by the Montreal Teachers Association. We encourage other members of the Common Front to pass similar motions in order to send a clear message that consciously misleading the public in order to have an agreement approved is utterly unacceptable.

La version française suivra

Motion to Censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch

Whereas one-time lump sum payments, investment in resources and money for bonuses are very different from salary increases that benefit teachers for the rest of their careers, and

Whereas at a December 20th Common Front press conference the following occurred:

  • one-time lump sum payments, investment in resources and money for bonuses were presented as if they were salary increases, with the claim that government’s salary offer had moved from 3 percent to 9.15 -10.25 percent
  • the goal of ‘stopping the continued impoverishment of members’ was presented as if it had been achieved.
  • speculation was offered that given the low rate of inflation, public sector workers might even come out ahead in terms of buying power by the end of the contract.

Whereas the misinformation presented by the Common Front leadership gave the public and union members the mistaken impression that the government’s offer was much more generous than it actually was, and

Whereas similar misinformation (presenting the salary increase as 9.15 -10.25 percent) had been widely reported in the media two days previous, and

Whereas Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers President Richard Goldfinch failed not only to send in corrections to the major English media outlets or even to his own members, he also failed to ensure that the Common Front press conference held two days later would not repeat this misinformation, and

Whereas even if the leadership of the Common Front sincerely believed that this was the best deal possible for its members, it is utterly unacceptable to use manipulation and deceit in order to have the agreement approved by members

Be it resolved that the members of the MTA hereby censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch for failing to ensure that the information presented at the December 20th Common Front press conference was as accurate as possible, and

Be it further resolved that MTA President Peter Sutherland be directed to draft a letter to each of the Presidents of the labour federations participating in the Common Front expressing the dissatisfaction of MTA members over the manipulative and deceitful way that information about the agreement in principle was presented to the public.

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January 15, 2016

An important point regarding pension changes in proposed contract

I recently received an email that made an important point about the changes to our pension plan in the proposed contract:

Hello again, Robert

Read your last article “…a hollow victory for unions“.
I think it would have been useful if you had added that the increase in deductions to the teachers pension plan would “consume”, according to my calculations, 72% of any increase proposed by the government (at least for anyone earning more than $54,900). That means, for the 1% increase in salary offered in the agreement, the real increase is only 0.28%. For the 2% increase offered, the real increase would be 0.58%.
With the other increases (CPP, EI, drug plan), the real increases would go further down to real zero or actual reductions in salary. It is understandable that higher absolute values of pensions payments require higher contributions, but most regular folks should be aware of the real numbers before they go to vote for the new agreement.
And you were talking about increases to cover inflation!
January 12, 2016

Quebec’s proposed deal with public sector workers: a hollow victory for unions?

After months of mobilization and negotiation, union leaders are more interested in claiming victory than in actually achieving it

By Robert Green | Published January 5, 2016 by Richochet.media

Prior to the holidays, teachers, parents and students in Quebec received some hopeful news: the Common Front, consisting of unions representing over 400,000 of the province’s half a million public sector workers, had overcome their final hurdle and arrived at an agreement on salaries. The news was filled with stories of satisfied union leaders trumpeting the fact that they had persuaded the government to move from their initial offer of 3 per cent in salary increases over five years to an increase of between 9.15 per cent and 10.25 per cent per year.

It may therefore come as a surprise to readers to learn that many public sector workers are preparing to vote against the deal. Delegates for the federation representing health care workers, which represents nearly one-quarter of the Common Front’s membership, have already voted to reject the deal. The FAE labour federation, which represents 34,000 teachers in the province’s French school boards (but is not a member of the Common Front), is recommending that its members reject a similar deal.

Why are Quebec workers, who have been without a contract since last April, skeptical of the proposed settlement? Because, on closer inspection, the deal on offer is not at all the victory that the Common Front leaders are claiming.

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January 7, 2016

Discussing the details of the Common Front salary deal for Quebec’s public sector workers

Robert Green discusses the details of the Common Front salary deal with CKUT’s Dan Parker and Stefan Christoff:

Click here to download

December 30, 2015

Sign the petition demanding equal treatment for teachers in Quebec’s English School Boards

Petition text:

QPAT (Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) has let its members down especially the 70% of us who are women. We, the 8000 teachers in the English school boards in Quebec are the only teachers and public sector workers in Quebec without an important equity feature in our contract. The ANNEX XXXV  on family-work reconciliation (or similar letter of understanding) is found in the contracts of the 100,000 francophone school board teachers (FSE and FAE)  and in the contracts of all CEGEP Teachers, nurses, and health care workers – 330,000 Quebec public employees with whom we made up the Common Front. This important recognition asserts that. The bargaining parties encourage the local parties to facilitate the conciliation of parental and family responsibilities with work-related responsibilities, when determining and implementing working conditions.

The members of QPAT, the majority of whom are women balancing work and family responsibilities deserve to have this very 21st Century recognition of their rights and their lives in their contract. It would encourage  management to be more responsive and sensitive to accomodating family needs of teachers with our work conditions.Please sign if you support QPAT teachers (all teachers in the English Public School System in Quebec ) sharing in the rights of the francophon majority and if you support the advancement of women`s rights in the workplace.

To sign the petition click here

To read Katharine Cukier’s open letter to Richard Goldfinch click here

December 19, 2015

An Open Letter to QPAT President Richard Goldfinch about a Glaring Omission in the Contracts of Teachers in Quebec’s English School Boards

By Katharine Cukier

Dear Mr. Goldfinch,I am writing as a member of QPAT to express my concerns about our new contract. Many of the women and the young parents at my school share my concerns about the omission of the letter of understanding found in the 2010-2015 contracts of 100,000 teachers of the FSE and FAE that is absent from the QPAT contract.  ANNEX XXXV in the 2010-15 collective agreement of FSE and FAE  asserts  the ”interdependence between work and family’, and makes the recommendation that management endeavours to ”organise work conditions” to allow for a better family-work balance”.

For many of us with family responsibilities, in my case a highly dependent disabled child and my aging father, this understanding would allow for a more humane management culture and an enlightened context for  discussions and arrangements around family-work balance.

I have brought this omission to the attention of Peter Sutherland, and I am hopeful  that the omission of 2010-2015 will be corrected.

It would be helpful to know why we were denied this Annex to begin with. Forgive my feminism, but could it be because the QPAT executive is all male? Perhaps QPAT needs parity. If the the federal cabinet of Canada can do it, surely a small teachers’ union could.

Attached to the contracts (2010-15) of our negotiating partner, FSE (CSQ)  and also to the contracts of the FAE contract,  the annexe XXXV  is as follows:

ANNEXE XXXV LETTRE D’ENTENTE RELATIVE AUX RESPONSABILITÉS FAMILIALES La CSQ (or FAE) d’une part, et le gouvernement du Québec représenté par le Conseil du trésor d’autre part, reconnaissent par la présente, la relation d’interdépendance entre la famille et le travail. En ce sens, les parties favorisent la prise en compte de la dimension de la conciliation famille-travail dans l’organisation du travail. À cet effet, les parties à la présente encouragent les parties sectorielles, régionales ou locales, selon le cas, à une meilleure conciliation des responsabilités parentales et familiales avec celles du travail, dans la détermination des conditions de travail et leur application.

It is not clear to me nor to my colleagues why the 8000 QPAT teachers have been denied this important step towards creating better working conditions for our union members, the majority of whom are women. I hope you will look into this personally and make sure that QPAT teachers have this recognition that 100,000 of our francophone colleagues have.

I will be doing my best to inform the membership of my union about this problem.

Sincerely,

Katharine Cukier

Update: to sign a petition demanding equal treatment for teachers click here

October 27, 2015

Measuring up to the Rest of Canada Part 1: Quebec vs New Brunswick

October 25, 2015

Those present at the meeting for the Montreal Teachers Association’s strike vote heard a number of remarkable things from our union leadership. QPAT’s chief negotiator, Olivier Dolbec, for example described the various times teachers had been legislated back to work as victories in which teachers came out ahead. Dolbec’s central piece of evidence for this claim was that the back-to-work legislation of 2005 won us our current limits on class size.

This might be an interesting point if it were true. In fact the current limits on class size were the central element in the 2010 negotiations that convinced teachers to vote in favour of a negotiated settlement. The 2005 strike resulted in teachers being legislated back to work with the exact provisions government had put on the table prior to the strike. In other words, this strike did absolutely nothing to move government from what it was intending to do all along. One would think that QPAT’s chief negotiator would have his facts straight on such matters.

As if this was not enough to cast serious doubt on the judgement and integrity of our chief negotiator, Mr Dolbec then stunned the room with this remarkable statement:

“This is – and I challenge anyone in the room to say the opposite – this is the best collective agreement for teachers AROUND THE WORLD”

WHS teacher Robert Lavoie has taken up Mr Dolbec’s challenge. In this the first of a multi-part series Mr Lavoie presents a thorough comparison of the collective agreement of Quebec’s teachers with that of New Brunswick’s.

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September 23, 2015

Montreal teachers’ pressure tactics are taking a toll

Bt Katherine Wilton | Published September 22 by The Montreal Gazette

Excerpt:

Teachers are angry that Quebec wants to increase class sizes in high schools and elementary schools and is proposing to no longer consider whether a child has a learning disability when calculating class sizes. A few months before negotiations began in March on a new collective agreement with the province’s teachers, former Education Minister Yves Bolduc told reporters there was no clear link between smaller class sizes and student performance, citing a 2008 Université Laval study. The government also wants to increase the work week from 32 to 35 hours and is offering a three-per cent wage increase over five years.

To read the entire story and view the two videos of WHS teachers explaining why they are taking work action: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-teachers-pressure-tactics-are-taking-a-toll

 

September 21, 2015

Is striking an effective tactic for Quebec’s teachers?

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
–  Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity

By Robert Green

There is no question that the teachers of Quebec are angry. Already the lowest paid teachers in Canada, the government’s current salary offer would see Quebec teachers falling even further behind with their inflation-adjusted salaries decreasing by about 7% over 5 years. Of even greater concern is the fact that government is proposing to rid our contract of nearly every clause that protects our working conditions and the learning conditions of our students, from limits on class size to a range of supports for students with special needs.

It is an understatement to suggest that the teachers of Quebec want actions that will pressure government to back away from its most regressive proposals. Most teachers are ready to make personal sacrifices in pursuit of that goal. The question for Quebec’s teachers is: what sort of action will actually be effective in achieving this goal?

A grassroots push to work-to-rule

Last spring the members of the Montreal Teachers Association passed a motion in their annual general meeting stating that the action the members wanted to pursue was a work-to-rule campaign. The sentiment expressed by many MTA members was that the large number of unpaid hours worked by Quebec’s teachers was an enormous source of power. Given that teachers are not paid for enough hours to adequately do their job, withdrawing the volunteer labour done by teachers was seen by many as an effective way to create pressure within the system while avoiding the spectre of back-to-work legislation. Working to rule may not be as effective for other public sector unions but there was a strong sentiment that teachers were in a unique position to create real pressure with this tactic. There was also a feeling expressed that it would be far easier to build and maintain public support through a work-to-rule campaign than through a strike action which would create major inconveniences for families.

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February 15, 2015

A Revitalized Teacher Union Movement

By Bob Peterson | Published in Volume 29 No.2 – Winter 2014/2015 of rethinking schools

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.

Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.

Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition.

Under these conditions, public sector union membership has plummeted, staff has been reduced, and resources to lobby, organize, and influence elections have shrunk.

People familiar with Wisconsin’s progressive history—in 1959, for example, we were the first state to legalize collective bargaining for public sector workers—find these events startling. And they should. If it happened in Wisconsin, it could happen anywhere.

And it has. In New Orleans, following Katrina, unionized teachers were fired and the entire system charterized. Following Wisconsin’s lead, Tennessee abolished the right for teachers to bargain collectively. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the teacher union. In city after city, privately run charter schools are dominating the education landscape.

Fortunately, teacher union activists across the country are revitalizing their unions and standing up to these relentless attacks. And this growing transformation of the teachers’ union movement may well be the most important force in our nation to defend and improve public schools and, in so doing, defend and improve our communities and what’s left of our democratic institutions.

The revitalization builds on the strengths of traditional “bread and butter” unionism. But it recognizes that our future depends on redefining unionism from a narrow trade union model, focused almost exclusively on protecting union members, to a broader vision that sees the future of unionized workers tied directly to the interests of the entire working class and the communities, particularly communities of color, in which we live and work.

This is a sea change for teacher unions (and other unions, too). But it’s not an easy one to make. It requires confronting racist attitudes and past practices that have marginalized people of color both inside and outside unions. It also means overcoming old habits and stagnant organizational structures that weigh down efforts to expand internal democracy and member engagement.

Read more: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/29_02/29-2_peterson.shtml

May 19, 2014

We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.

austerityAnother important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.

Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.

This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.

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May 15, 2014

We Need Better Health Insurance, Not a Back Door Fee Increase: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 3

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency.

Another reason I am running is to push for badly needed changes to our health and dental insurance. The mere mention of our insurance elicits enormous frustration from the teachers at my school. There is a widespread perception that this plan does not provide good value. The vast majority of teachers with the ability to register on their partner’s insurance plan all seem to do so.

healthUnfortunately neither the leadership of the MTA nor QPAT seem at all interested in working to make improvements to our insurance. While I believe that a thorough investigation into the problems with these plans needs to be done, there are two things that could be done immediately to improve these plans. The first is to actually consult the members on the cost and composition of the plan.

Our union leadership loves to tell us that these are our plans and that we have complete control over them. Yet since these plans have been established the members have never been formally consulted on their cost and composition. Perhaps members would be willing to remove the coverage of certain items in order to reduce fees? Or perhaps the members would be willing to pay more for additional coverage? Or perhaps the members would like to replace the coverage of certain items for improved coverage on others? The point is there is no way of knowing any of this as long as we have a union leadership that is unwilling to put in the work to consult the members. How are we ever to improve the members’ satisfaction with these plans if we never ask them what they think? What good is membership control if the members are never given an opportunity to exercise that control?

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November 20, 2013

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.

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November 16, 2013

QPAT Convention 2013: Coping Strategies When What Teachers Need is Change

Should conventions held by teachers unions include workshops aimed at politicizing and empowering its membership or should they merely offer tips and techniques to use in the classroom? How one answers this question reveals a great deal about how one sees the nature of teachers unions themselves.

Following a historic victory of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) last year, union President Karen Lewis explained this victory as the product of a change in union leadership that brought with it a change in the philosophy of how the union should be run. She described this philosophical shift as moving from a “service model” to an “organizing model”. This involved making structural changes to the union itself so that it could be more effective at educating and empowering members:

…we purposely tried to change the culture of union so that the union is about education, is about empowering teachers … And as a result, the union officers took pay cuts, significant pay cuts, so that we can have an organizing department, so that we can have a research department, so that we didn’t do the union the way the old union was done, because those days are over…

The unity achieved by the CTU educating and empowering its grassroots members transformed the CTU from an organization incapable of fending off the various attacks against the working conditions of its members into a fighting organization capable of not only defending their members but actually making gains on their behalf.

While paying lip service to the historic victory of Chicago teachers in a recent issue of QPAT’s newsletter Liaison, QPAT itself could not be further from the organizing model that was responsible for this victory: their democratic structures could not be more opaque or inaccessible to the grassroots members; their approach to negotiation seems more intent on telling members what to think and how to vote than on empowering members and encouraging real debate; they see no problem paying their president and certain members of their permanent staff salaries and perks that far exceed those received by the highest paid teachers. 

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