Class Struggle and the Class Room

May 28, 2015 at 9:46 pm (Uncategorized)

Teachers in Ontario have been without a contract for almost a year. Well, actually, it’s been a bit longer really.

At the end of the last contract in August 2012, the governing Liberal party tabled and then passed Bill 115 subsequently The Putting Children First Act (see it you can spot the irony here) giving the province substantially more power in bargaining with education  unions. A key point was the demand that the unions accept the province’s hand-crafted contract or the province would impose it on them.

Given the “we will fight them on the beaches” style rhetoric from union leaders, they opted to have the province shoot them rather than commit suicide. At least that way, they could retain their dignity. Not much, mind you because despite the rhetoric, almost nothing was done.

Come the end of two years and it’s bargaining time again. This time there’s a bit more talk of fight back. Six weeks ago, secondary teachers in Durham, the board just east of Toronto walked out. Two weeks ago, teachers in Peel (Mississauga) and Rainbow (Sudbury) also walked out. Faced with more locals poised to strike, the Liberals introduced back-to-work legislation which passed today. At the same time, the Ontario Labour Board in response to a petition by the striking school boards declared the strikes illegal. Teachers went back to work on Wednesday, but union leaders have vowed to fight on.

Wow! Pretty militant stuff. Or is it?

A number of teachers I spoke to are pretty cynical about the whole thing. Is it possible that the striking boards were just used as cannon fodder? (Teachers wages will be garnished by the union to pay the strikers and make up the outlay by the union) The Liberals get to posture as tough against the unions, and the unions get to tell the membership they are still fighting for them. When you think about it, back-to-work was always at the end of the road, and what did the unions do to prepare? Very little. No mass rallies. No enlisting other unions to help out. What solidarity pickets there were, were organized at the local level not by the Federation. Is it too much to suggest that there’s already a backroom deal in the works? Despite the rhetoric of both the province and the unions, their agendas are virtually the same.

No? Well, cast your mind back a few years to when current premier Kathleen Wynn was running for leadership of the party. Education unions called for a massive protest at the convention site, and it was massive, in the thousands. What those protesters didn’t know though was that members of their own executive were inside lobbying with and for Wynn and actually gave the union’s money to her campaign! And when he retired from leadership of the federation, Ken Coran actually ran for the Liberals. He lost, but OSSTF had still endorsed him! Elementary, it should be noted endorsed the NDP candidate, but it might have been a different story if one of theirs had been running.

Too  bad civics classes are almost over for the year. This would have been a most instructive lesson.

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