Friday, March 1, 2013
Education Workers Need Collective Action Against Attacks
by Jeff Kanter, secondary teacher in Ottawa.
Here’s a thought: how about the leaders of OSSTF and ETFO sit down with each
other and come up with a collective, cooperative, collaborative, and united course of
The most effective weapon teachers have –unified action – was seriously weakened
months ago when OECTA leaders caved in to governmental pressure and accepted,
without permitting a vote by membership, the now infamous MoU. In spite of this
setback, the elementary and secondary panels of the public system seemed to be on
the same page moving forward. Now, that has suddenly changed, as the nightmare
has become a dream.
A dream for the new Liberal minority government: dissension among the teachers’
ranks. OSSTF has inexplicably caved in to provincial pressure and has supported a
return to voluntary activities for teachers while getting absolutely nothing in return
for these teachers other than vague notions of continuing to have meaningful and
polite dialogue. What the hell does that mean?
OSSTF members have been sent emails which have been long on word count but
short on substance. According to a recent communiqué members received, OSSTF
was partially responsible for Mr McGuinty’s decision to resign as well as Ms Broten’s
decision to not seek the Liberal leadership. At least there was no claim about
the discovery of fire but then again, I may have gotten bogged down and stopped
reading too soon.
Meetings are happening at secondary schools, as union leaders and their
representatives will be surely asked many pointed questions beginning with words
like “what” and “why”. Hopefully, their answers will be substantive.
In the meantime, the media is already starting to have a field day with OSSTF saying
yes and ETFO saying no to the government’s suggestion that everybody just go back
to business as usual without anything other than the government’s intention to be
nicer in the future.
Take, for example, the nonsense spewing forth on the OTTAWA SUN editorial page
today. It is sad that people in positions of influence write this kind of garbage; it
is worse that people who are then easily influenced read it; it is then essential that
Somebody respond to it and try to inject some common sense into what is rapidly b
becoming the problem that just won’t go away.
The editorial is entitled: “ETFO stamps its tiny feet, again” and begins by referring
to its members as “crybabies” who are having a tantrum. Can’t the staff writers
who work at that publication get over that tired metaphor? If there is ANY infantile
perspective in the present situation, it is being exhibited by a government expecting
professionals who have been wronged and mistreated to simply drop all resistance
and give in because Mommy Premier (is it too early to do that?) asks them to do so?
That is far more pathetic than a measured response from ETFO to a ridiculous
proposal from the government.
Now that there has been a change in leadership, there needs to be some real
Leadership is more than repeating the suggestion that teachers are valued. In light
of months of abuse at the hands of the McGuinty government, to simply change the
tone, while a significant first step, is simply not enough. Nor should ANYONE, Sun
editorial writers included, overlook this.
Instead, the editorial goes on to paint a picture of Ms Wynne, described as “ETFO’s
spiritual soul mate” repeating the mantra, “ad nauseam…how wonderful teachers
are…About how she’d practically stand on her head and spit nickels if teachers
would only restore extra-curriculars”.
What the government is, uh, ‘offering’ is NOTHING other than the repetition of
the hope that everybody talks nicely to each other from now on although the
imposed ‘contracts’ will not be torn up.
If THAT deserves the spitting nickels visual, its author has a bright future selling
snow to Inuit.
Teachers are paid appropriately. This is only because their union representatives
have fought and negotiated in collective bargaining – something th has now come
under attack. It is becoming tiresome to have to constantly rationalize –to those
who have no clue about the demands of the work – things like those pesky summer
holidays and all those other breaks. That is not the issue here, even though it
somehow gets mentioned yet again in this vacuous editorial.
I have been trying to be a teacher for almost 40 years. Uh, I think I have a pretty
damn good idea about the “real world” as I juggle payments and responsibilities and
the demands of family dynamics and economic challenges. So, to the author of this
piece, stop whining about how my working schedule is structured and maybe you
could try a fresh, new approach…one that actually addresses that ‘real world’ you
seem to embrace.
To assess the unconscionable submission by OECTA several months ago as laudable
would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Calling that disgraceful abandonment
of the collective bargaining process a creditable decision borders on disgusting,
because it implies that an actual agreement was reached. Nope. Didn’t happen.
Instead, the government screamed JUMP and OECTA’s leadership responded by
asking how long it should remain in the air.
OSSTF has NOT simply restored extra curriculars. And to reduce ETFO’s reaction
to a tantrum trivializes rather than enlightens. Of course, without that tired picture
of teachers acting like the children that this writer obviously thinks they are, there
would not have been that oh so snappy riproste of an ending. If this journalist/
editor wants to contribute to a significant situation, fine. A careful reading of the
piece, however, clearly argues this is not the case.
The crisis in education is not going to disappear just because a new premier and a
new minister would like that. And it certainly is not going to improve with the kind
of editorial nonsense that all too often graces the pages of the OTTAWA SUN.