Wednesday 2 January 2013

Ontario Teaching Post 2012

I tried to piece together a historical account back in September, using an allegory, which many have said they found very confusing to follow.

True enough. There's a lot of different people and different unions involved, making it hard to capture the essence in a single post. (Or for that matter, in a single bill...)

So let me make another effort here, by linking out elsewhere on the web. Supplemented with my own pull quotes and personal opinions, and still somewhat simplified at that. To start out, you only need to understand two things:
1) Before the Liberals came to power, the Ontario government gave x dollars to school boards, who then bargained locally with unions. Many of these local contracts are different - not only regionally based, but with different clauses regarding leaves, sick day payouts, et cetera.
2) In 2008, the Ontario government met with boards and unions to work out a "framework" for local bargaining to follow. This mostly involved monetary issues.

Also, just to note, I'm not an expert, just a guy who's been to a few meetings, thus probably has a better sense of what to search for, in terms of news articles. Opinions expressed are also my own.

Notably, in 2008, the Education Minister was The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, currently a front runner for leadership of the party.


-January 2008: Provincial Discussion Tables Began
-May 1, 2008: Catholic Teachers (OECTA) sign on.
-May 22, 2008: Elementary Teachers (ETFO) leave the talks.
-Nov 27, 2008: Secondary Teachers (OSSTF) sign on.
-NOV 29, 2008: Provincial Framework Agreement Reached
-Nov 30, 2008: Government deadline for framework talks
-Dec 6, 2008: Government announces ETFO must take 2% instead of 3%

FEBRUARY 12, 2009Strike Averted: ETFO Accepts Government's Terms
 "School boards had already accepted the offer, but the union had earlier said it was outraged by Wynne's threats and deadlines."
 "Ontario teachers will now continue to bargain on issues such as leaves of absence, sick days and maternity leave at a local level."
-In Dollar Terms, how much individual ETFO members lost because of the 2% salary penalty imposed in the Provincial Agreement.

MARCH 31, 2009Toronto High School Teachers Endorse Strike Action
 "The teachers are deadlocked with the Toronto District School Board over the issue of 'additional professional assignments'."
 "All other school boards have settled without violating the provincial framework."

1) OECTA signing an early agreement is not news.
2) Teachers teaching for 5+ months without a contract in place is not news.
3) Reaching local deals before Dec 31st wasn't possible in 2008. No idea why the government thought imposing an even stricter framework would make it possible in 2012.

The Honourable Laurel Broten was appointed Minister of Education in October 2011.

*2012: PART 1*

JANUARY 31, 2012
Laurel Broten rejects Catholic trustees' policy statement
 "A battle is looming between the Ontario government and Catholic schools."
 "Laurel Broten is insisting that Catholic schools permit single issue clubs such as gay-straight alliances." (Re: Bill 13)

(A shot of irony for you there. Now, on to the provincial discussion tables:)

Teacher Compensation Debate: ETFO vs Ontario Ministry of Education
 "ETFO was greeted by a government negotiating team dominated by three bankruptcy lawyers from law firm McCarthy Tetrault."
 "The government expected teachers unions to agree to its terms within one month, in time for the tabling of the 2012 provincial budget."

Laywers also dealing with OSSTF
 "The proposed PDT process is not part of the collective bargaining process as established in the Ontario Labour Relations Act."

(We're not off to a good start.)

MARCH 1, 2012
 Ontario teachers 'insulted' by plan to end retirement perk
 "The union bosses were so upset they're refusing to take part in further discussions next week."
 "About half the teachers in Ontario have already lost the right to bank sick days, so they aren't likely to fight too hard to preserve it for others."

 Clampdown on teachers' labour costs will protect education, Ontario says
 "'We appreciate Mr. Drummond's advice, but we have a different idea,' Education Minister Laurel Broten told reporters Thursday morning."
 "'We don't just want to freeze the grid: we're going to fix it for the long term,' Ms. Broten said."

(The first is an opinion piece, so I can't speak to 'about half'... I suspect less. But yes, the government is completely ignoring local differences this early in the process.)

MARCH 27, 2012
 Education Funding Cut in 2012 Budget
 "Despite promises to protect education, the budget contained at least $500 million of cuts over the next three years."

 Ontario budget: Hard lessons for teachers, some students
 "Duncan insisted the budget blueprint is not an attack on schools."
 "The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario said it is 'frustrated' at the proposal to cut nine scholarship and financial aid plans."

(We now have the numbers. In a sane world, we could negotiate local deals that meet said budget framework as presented. But the province is still keen on forcing it's framework.)

APRIL 11, 2012
 Ontario Education Minister Warns Teachers, School Boards about local bargaining
 "Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten has launched a pre-emptive strike against the province's teachers aimed at discouraging their unions from engaging in talks with individual school boards."
 "Her letter, she said, simply reminds school board chairs about the value of the provincial table."

 From a Media Release of July 6
 "We tabled a proposal to the government back in April that would give them additional cost savings ... we also offered the government a four year deal that included a two year wage freeze, and modest cost of living salary increases in years three and four."
 "The government rejected those proposals without any consideration."

(I don't think ETFO - Elementary Educators - ever came back to the table after leaving in February; this month OSSTF - Secondary Educators - walked away as well. I feel like riffing off Monty Python here...
 "Look, I came here for a negotiation."
 "No you didn't, you came here for an argument.")

Still, a lot of this has been going on behind the scenes, or on the media sidelines. It's finally about to explode, and the rest of the population of Ontario is about to jump on board in asking "Wait, What?".

*2012: PART 2*

JULY 5, 2012
 Ontario Catholic Teachers Reach Deal with Province; Agree to Wage Freeze
 "The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association ... left negotiations just after 11pm Wednesday night over concerns the deal on the table 'did not represent the best interest of students'. ...they were unaware talks continued between the province and the union until it was announced at Queen's Park the next morning."
 "OECTA president Kevin O'Dwyer said the negotiations were the most difficult he has been involved with in 20 years."
 "New Democrat MPP Gilles Bisson implored the Liberals 'not to take this as a victory lap and flaunt it as a pattern for what's going to happen with the other unions'."

1) OECTA signing an early agreement is STILL NOT NEWS. Except when the Liberals think it should be.
2) The Catholic Trustees didn't even know this deal was going down.
3) The Liberals didn't listen to Gilles Bisson.

JULY 30, 2012
 Start of Ontario's School Year in Jeopardy if Labour Talks Stall
 "Education Minister Laurel Broten said at a news conference on Monday that the government will introduce legislation if school board trustees are 'unwilling or unable' to negotiate agreements with teachers before the existing contracts expire on Aug. 31.  ... She did not elaborate on the rush to reach a new deal or why failing to meet the deadline could lead to teachers not returning to the classroom in September."
 "Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said the government is simply trying to scare parents. Negotiations between boards and teachers can take place after the school year begins."
 "After five months of negotiations, the government has managed to reach two deals without the agreement of the employers. They are now asking school boards to reach 400 collective agreements inside of four weeks."

 Nothing's in Jeopardy. (See 2008.) But since we're going nowhere fast, time to make people PANIC!

AUGUST 8, 2012
 Crucial Ontario byelections to be held Sept 6
 "Dalton McGuinty has set Sept. 6 as the date for two byelections that could potentially deliver his Liberals the majority government that they narrowly missed securing during las fall's provincial election."
 "The premier also says calling the byelections does not mean he has ruled out calling the legislature back in an emergency session this month to impose a new contract on Ontario teachers."

 Depending on who you ask, this means nothing, or that the Premier wants to win a historically Conservative riding.

AUGUST 9, 2012
 Province Inks Third Deal with French Teacher's Union AEFO
 "The AEFO is the third education union to hammer out a deal with the provincial government, after the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Association of Professional Student Services Personnel."
 "Toronto's Catholic board, the province's largest, voted this week to accept the deal. However, other school boards are balking because it gives teachers the power to decide which diagnostic tests students take and how often."

 Provincial Framework doesn't necessarily imply done deals with local school boards. Surprised?

AUGUST 16, 2012
 Ontario Government Previews Legislation to Freeze Teacher Wages
 "'I don't believe the average Ontario worker would expect to get a 5.5 percent pay increase after taking the summer off and refusing to negotiate,' Broten said in a shot at unions."

1) No one's been talking about a 5.5 percent pay increase. The heck?
2) The quote sparked a petition asking the minister to either resign or apologize, pointing out that teachers are seasonal workers. (By Broten's logic, snowplow operators should be driving them around all year as well.)

AUGUST 20, 2012
 Ontario Liberals Recalling Legislature to Introduce Bill to Impose Contract on Teachers
 "If the bill is passed, the government would also have the power to ban a strike or lockout for the next two school years."
 "The government would also have the authority to impose new collective agreements starting Jan 1, if they can't be reached before then."
 "The [unions] say they're not in a legal strike position and that the government is deceiving parents by spreading fear that a strike is imminent."

 McGuinty asks Teachers to Accept Two-Year Wage Freeze
 "The cash-strapped province just doesn't have money for raises, said McGuinty, who predicted the government's fight with teachers would soon be over."
 "The New Democrats said the first day of school went off without a hitch, just as teachers had said that it would, and took a shot at the Conservatives for promising to help the minority Liberal government pass the legislation to impose a contract on teachers."
 "The NDP fear the legislation will be overturned by the courts and cost the province even more in the long run, but the Liberals are confident they've made serious enough efforts to negotiate."

1) Who said anything about raises?? I point you to April 2012, above.
2) Asking someone something while holding a sledgehammer over their heads isn't really asking.
3) What was the point in recalling the legislature early, exactly?

 Ontario Liberals fall 1 seat shy of Majority
 "The results mean McGuinty's Liberals have 53 seats, one shy of the 54 needed for a majority and the same total they held before the byelections were called."

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
 Ontario Teachers Vow to Curb Extracurricular Activities as Bill Passes Freezing Wages
 "Up to 136,000 public school teachers will drop extracurricular activities like running clubs and coaching teams on Wednesday to protest Ontario's new law."
 "A gleeful Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he was happy the Liberals finally followed his call for a wage freeze. ... [his party] wants wages frozen for everyone on the public payroll, including doctors, police and firefighters."
 "Laurel Broten said the legislation is retroactive to Sept 1."

 I'll give them this. Without something to claw back the automatic rollover (which meant my first pay this year was an increase, followed by substantial decreases as the retroactive legislation clawed the money back), things would have been awkward. But can someone please explain to me why Bill 115 included, among other things, this language:
 "14. (1) The Ontario Labour Relations Board shall not inquire into or make a decision on whether a provision of this Act, a regulation or an order made under subsection 9 (2) is constitutionally valid or is in conflict with the Human Rights Code."

It's stuff like that which is bothering most teachers, by the way. Not the media hyped wage freeze. Which was tacitly agreed to in April.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2012
 Ontario Says it won't Block Teacher Strike
 "Many teachers and parents believed that the legislation the government passed, which also imposed a two-year wage freeze and cuts to sick days, had taken away teachers' right to strike."
 "While the ministry of education imposed the terms of the contract, union officials have continued to bargain with their local school boards, but within some very restricted parameters. ... 'It's like trying to knit a sweater out of thin air'."

 No one knows what's going on any more.

OCTOBER 11, 2012
 Official Transcript Confirms: Ontario minister says Catholic schools can't teach pro-life views
 "Minister Laurel Broten told a press conference at Queen's Park that Catholic teaching on abortion is 'misogyny'."

(Just in case you thought the Catholics were happy. Because, you know, Broten doesn't have enough problems without bringing up Bill 13 again.)

OCTOBER 16, 2012
 Opposition upset over McGuinty's prorogue on Ontario Legislature
 "Premier Dalton McGuinty's surprise decisions to resign and adjourn the Ontario legislature until the Liberals pick a new leader could throw the province's political scene into uncertainty for months."

 Well, that's one way to shut down debate.

NOVEMBER 20, 2012
 McGuinty hopes new contract will be 'template' for other boards
 "Five school boards have reached tentative agreements with high school teachers, but the government has only approved two so far."
 "Any tentative deal must be similar to the one the Liberals struck with English Catholic teachers ... four unions are taking the government to court over the new anti-strike law that's granted the Liberals these unusual powers, arguing it's unconstitutional and violates collective bargaining rights."

DECEMBER 10, 2012
 Communication Breakdown
 "The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation ripped up an agreement it had with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board late last week saying provincial Education Minister Laurel Broten had meddled in the agreement rendering it, in the union's view, null and void."
 "Broten, for her part, denied those claims in a scrum Monday."

  Local negotiations under Bill 115 really is like trying to knit a sweater out of thin air... then being told that it's the wrong pattern. (The Ottawa-Carleton board later admitted Broten added new language, so the Minister must have a different definition of meddling.)

DECEMBER 11, 2012
 Ontario Teacher Strikes: 5 Frequently Asked Questions
 "English, elementary public school teachers across the province are holding one-day strikes between now and the end of the school year on Dec 21."
 "Broten can't force teachers to take part in extra-curricular activities, including sports and clubs, because they are considered volunteer work."
 "Teachers' unions say their biggest issue is that Bill 115 takes away their right to collective bargaining."

 The public has to be informed that the key issue is collective bargaining. Messages aren't getting through.


JANUARY 2, 2013
 Dalton McGuinty Warns Teachers who Haven't Signed New Contracts
 "Our preference has always been one of negotiated settlements. But after 10 months, the bargaining deadline has passed."
 "Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said the timing of McGuinty's open letter was 'seemingly odd, the day before an announced minster's press conference'."

Well, here we are, "after 10 months". Agree or disagree with Bill 115 and steps taken to date, that is your choice, but at least be informed. Meaning it's probably a good idea to visit someone else's website too... for one thing, I didn't find many articles about the impact on education workers who AREN'T teachers. I know I don't want a pay hike (as a less than 10 years teacher) on the backs of custodians who would have to take three unpaid professional development days.

Thanks for reading. I'm going back to marking papers now.


  1. The one thing about all this that sends shivers down my spine is how gleeful Hudak is to have the contract imposed. That speaks volumes about the content of the Bill. My takeaway - next election, I'm voting NDP.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.