Opening Statement



Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Meeting with OECTA's President O'Dwyer!

Oct 4 news links continue below my report....

Wednesday Oct 3:

Last night after school OECTA President Kevin O'Dwyer attended session 2 of our TSU [Toronto Secondary School] membership Q+A's at St. Basil the Great CSS. I counted about 40 people present. On Monday apparently 30 members showed up when TSU President Rene Jansen hosted the meeting at Senator O'Conner. There is one more session with Rene at Marshal McLuhan after school tonight. There are approximately 2200 members in our unit. I was quite shocked and dismayed by the numbers.

Many readers will know my position on a lot of the current MOU and Bill 115 issues we face, and how dreadfully important they are. You will also know I try to provide as many different perspectives as I can for you to make up your own mind on the issues, in a knowledgeable and informed way. So  here's the straight goods. I listened, asked questions and talked to Kevin personally afterwards. Agree or disagree, here is what was said and happened, as I understood it:

First when President O'Dwyer asked if I was recording the meeting on my Ipad, I was being perfectly truthful when I said no. I also respected his wish not to take pictures. I'd have liked to take one of him at the meeting for this article. A picture often speaks a hundred words. Alas. I'm not very good at drawing. That could certainly have been construed as offensive here. I respect his privilege.

Let me assure you that whatever one might think of him nowadays, I know Kevin is a quite decent lad, who over the course of his years has made many valuable contributions to OECTA. He deserves fair coverage. Our members also thanked him for coming to his second meeting with TSU. He will also be attending our Kingsbridge staff rep in service this month. He confirmed that he has been steadily travelling across the province fulfilling speaking engagements, trying to meet with all of our units upon request. I will personally add he looked rather thin, tired, but seriously committed to meeting as many of us as he personally can. I don't doubt he is very sincere in his quest, and I do believe he thinks it is the only right way to proceed.

Kevin explained that he has spoken at membership meetings of between 500 to 1200 members. Most have been positive. Ours expressed the most opposition to date. There is concern about the ratification process.  Otherwise most of the questions he is usually asked are about how the OECTA MOU and Bill 115 effects our members now, and as we negotiate our local contracts, by the December 31st deadline.

Our members asked President O'Dwyer many good questions. The questions were a lot more focused and informed than last time on August 23rd. Our ratification concerns were very notable and evoked a lot of clapping and support. Kevin said the process would be addressed at OECTA Spring AGM with a number of motions to change them to meet our members' concerns.

I asked him about contract stripping in the MOU and the removal of Collective Bargaining rights under Bill 115. If you read my Neo Real blog you will know I consider these inalienable principles. Kevin explained that OECTA had a legal study completed on the recent BC court case decision. It made OECTA decide the province would most likely win a legal challenge. OECTA Provincial felt it was important to best protect the membership by getting us a better deal than we otherwise would gotten have under the original PDT terms. I asked Kevin if I could get a copy of the brief. He said it was discussed "in camera" and is not available at present.

I asked Kevin for his response to the Sudbury letter. He seemed guarded, perhaps quite understandably so. He does read my blog. Let's face it, it is a media source for many teachers, and he is a public figure. Kevin did not ignore me though and say no comment. I respect that.

Anyway, here is what he said. According to President O'Dwyer,  the Sudbury letter has not been actually been filed with OECTA. Only Halton has submitted one to OECTA for "failure of representation". There is no indication that any is forthcoming from Toronto, which would be from either TSU or TECT, as has been claimed. I don't know the filing process for a "failure of representation". Does it need to go directly to the labour board and OECTA? Did it go to the labour board but not OECTA? Or was any even filed at all except through the media for popular consumption, perhaps even through the Tory Education critic at Queen's Park, as Kevin seemed to say? This needs to be qualified.

Kevin noted that a core principle of unionism, besides those I mentioned, is that problems are dealt with in house and not in public. I had to disagree, in the situation we now face, as I understand it. I believe that if our members feel disenfranchised, as I still think many do, they have every right, if not a duty, to get their concerns addressed. They are not bound by the normal reasonable union limits on free speech, nor should they accept censor. Unfortunately, the covenant of representation has been broken.

Here is how I think myself: if I am not being represented correctly, in any situation in life where I need to be "represented", I will then always represent myself, union, or no union, whatever. Maybe that's contentious. Maybe I am not a good unionist, whatever that is supposed to mean.. It is without doubt a difficult path to follow. Bottom line: That's just me. I can't function any other way and stick to my core values.

Other news: Kevin is sceptical that the current public teacher union protest will result in popular support for the teachers. Quite the opposite. As he pointed out, the Ontario Conservatives have the most support in the public opinion polls. However, they often do before an election. I'm not convinced that means the teachers are loosing support. I also think OSSTF and ETFO have been exercising excellent spin control over their events, at least since school started. Also, teacher support was really a major help in the NDP winning the K-W by election. In the past we often supported the Liberals. We can't be expected to support them next time around, that's for sure.

On the other hand, it's true that it is far from given that the NDP's close polling numbers, when converted into seats, would be likely to result in them forming the next government, at least as they now stand. Also the NDP have a demonstrated track record in throwing their all into a by-election win, which isn't the same thing as winning a province wide election. If you think the Liberals are bad, consider what will happen if the Tory "blue machine" gets back in power.

Kevin's concerns are quite legit. However, I don't sense that political momentum or popular support is necessarily turned against teachers right now. That is speculative though. I am convinced that stuck between a rock and a hard place, NDP support is our teacher unions' best strategic bet. Read  my Neo Real blog for a better explanation of this.

Many of our members took umbrage with Kevin over this issue at the meeting. How can we support the Liberals after what they have now done to us? I don't think Kevin was dismissing that as a serious concern. He claimed that OECTA will be involved with the other teacher, public service, and private sector unions to plan and coordinate a combined political strategy for the next provincial election, which as he pointed out, could come at anytime. I argued that I don't "feel the love", so to speak, between the other unions and OECTA anymore. Kevin replied that OECTA has been invited to the upcoming meetings, and plans to attend. It was also noted that despite whatever else is happening across the province, OECTA TSU and TECT still have cordial relationships with our public counterparts OSSTF D12 and ETT. Neither the TSU or TECT President supported the MOU at COP, and of course the public school unions quite clearly don't support it either. I am not sure how it is going between our OECTA units and their public counterparts elsewhere across the rest of the province. The situation well might be quite different than here at the local level in Toronto That's my best guess.

Here are some other interesting tidbits:

Bill 115 only applies for our OECTA units up until December 31st. Since OECTA agreed to the MOU we are not bound by the limits on our collective bargaining after that, unlike ETFO and OSSTF. I'm not sure of the legal technicalities here, but it represents quite an important difference. Of course, our public school counterparts are still screwed short of co-operating now, or engaging in civil disobedience. Pardon the language but I really don't think there is any nice way to put it, and as far as I am concerned, this really sucks. Ouch. I better wrap up this blog report soon.

Here's how the OECTA Provincial executive voted on ratifying the MOU. I understand there were 9 votes. Kevin was not present during the vote but says he would have voted in support of it. 3 executive members voted against it. 5 voted in favour of it. No, we didn't learn the names.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Let me say I don't believe President O'Dwyer should be simply demonized for what has happened, as much as I disagree with the MOU and Bill 115. We do not live in a black and white world of absolutes. I wasn't convinced by Kevin's number arguments on this or that.  Let's face it, these grow very tedious and we all know numbers can be used to show pretty much anything, depending on who is spinning them out. I do think Kevin sincerely believes in essence what he is telling us. However, I sense that he, as well as OECTA Provincial have lost their political mojo, the Liberals as well. The charm to bolster my confidence, and the ability to bounce back from the debilitation and negativity of the past few months just doesn't feel like it is there anymore. I could be wrong, especially if as Kevin claims, OECTA local support across Ontario is not as bad as it might seem from the questions and comments at last night's meeting. Quite disappointingly, few of our members even showed up, which can't be ignored. Perhaps only time will tell whether President O'Dwyers perspectives are right or wrong and by then it might be too late.

Regret I can't be much more peppy than that today, but on with my regular news-links........

PS: If you can update us on the member's response at your OECTA unit's MOU meeting using the Comments bar at the bottom of this blog, that could prove very interesting and insightful! Please do! What was the turnout like? Support for the MOU? Etc.....................

TODAY: IN THE NEWS:

Thursday Oct 4 2012

Praise the Lord + pass the OECTA anti-MOU ammunition! Ottawa Citizen reports 700 angry OECTA teachers showed up to President O'Dwyers meeting last night denouncing MOU and calling for his resignation. Note Kevin again claims that he hasn't run into discontent before. Nobody present at the Toronto meeting spoke out FOR the MOU, and they were upset too. See: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/touch/story.html?id=7340153

Students across Windsor use Facebook to organize big walk out in support of teachers. Wow! This is really spreading. See my Queen's Park Student Rally blog and read: http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2012/10/03/students-stage-walk-out-to-support-teachers/

Education Minister Broten "outraged" over cost overruns at Toronto District School Board [TDSB] for capital projects. Threatening to withold funding: http://www.etfo.ca/MediaRoom/MediaReleases/Pages/Ontario%20Teachers%20Stand%20up%20for%20Democracy%20on%20World%20Teachers%E2%80%99%20Day.aspx

Kingston Public School group organize popular lawn sign campaign, in attempt to stop school closings. What a fabulous idea for showing teacher support during the "education crisis!" No? It would need to be set up differently, but just a thought.........See: http://www.thewhig.com/2012/10/02/schools-group-launches-sign-campaign

K-W Record letter to the editor succinctly identifies underlying local collective verses province wide bargaining dilemma fissure behind MOU and Bill 115. See: http://www.therecord.com/opinion/letters/article/810187--bill-an-eye-opener

International Teacher's Day on Friday finds teaching profession under siege around the world. We are not alone. Ontario "crisis" is not just a local event on world stage. Far from it. See: http://www.therecord.com/opinion/letters/article/810187--bill-an-eye-opener

ETFO President Sam Hammond reminds everyone the theme for International Teachers' Day on Friday is fittingly "Take a stand for teachers!" It will be interesting to see how the theme is put into practice for tomorrow's teacher protests. Read: http://www.etfo.ca/MediaRoom/MediaReleases/Pages/Ontario%20Teachers%20Stand%20up%20for%20Democracy%20on%20World%20Teachers%E2%80%99%20Day.aspx

Help Wanted! Libs need new coaltion of support now that the teachers have abandoned them en mass. Lefties need not apply. In case you missed this article from last weekend, see: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ontario-liberals-look-for-support-after-alienating-unions/article4573505/

Politics certain makes for strange bed fellows! The QP soap opera: Energy Minister Chris Bently debacle a "phony war" like lover's spat while Libs + Cons play naughty together, plotting undercover for wage freezes + arbitration reform. See: http://m.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1266455--cohn-phony-war-at-queen-s-park-obscures-bigger-battles-on-wages

More on QP capers with Dalton + Tim from Toronto Star's QP Bureau Chief Robert Benzie: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1267121--premier-dalton-mcguinty-hopes-tim-hudak-will-help-him-freeze-public-servant-wages?utm_source=twitterfeed

Wednesday Oct 3 2012:

OMG! Big Day at the MOE. See Laurel Broten's Twitter comments and a photo of her with Polkaroohttps://twitter.com/LaurelBroten/status/253243211747831808/photo/1

Toronto Sun Christine Blizzard column nails down Bently as the "sacrificial lamb" for Dalton's election sin of closing down 2 unpopular power plants in exchange for votes. However she misses the point that this debacle has also helped move the focus away from education issues, perhaps the only upside for an embattled Liberal party on the ropes: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/10/02/mcguinty-not-bentley-should-bear-the-blame

Here's a Youtube link to OFL [Ontario Federation of Labour] President Sid Ryan's views on the Ontario deficit crisis: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2012/09/29/teachers-theyre-taking-our-rights

CAW + OSSTF Presidents in Toronto Star piece compare Lib + Car makers' strategy for settling contracts: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2012/09/29/teachers-theyre-taking-our-rights

Windsor Star letter to the editor debunks Finance Minister's praise of CAW strategy for reaching a contract deal. CAW's deal was reached through free collective bargaining. Essentially here's the "one size fits all" provincial bargaining verses local collective bargaining issue at the heart of the whole debate. See: http://www.windsorstar.com/news/Province+took+away+right+bargain/7335285/story.html

CTF [Canadian Teacher Federation] theme for Oct 5 World Teachers' Day is "Take a stand for teachers". I suppose a lot of teachers will be if the regular Friday protests continue to gain momentum this week. See: http://www.windsorstar.com/news/Province+took+away+right+bargain/7335285/story.html

Public school teacher extracurricular boycott results in hundred of students being unable to attend popular Toronto city wide elementary track and field meet. Winona Drive Senior Public School students stage 2 day walkout with parents' consent. Principal urges them to return to class today. Article does not say they were supporting the teachers. An extracurricular boycott is quite understandable and I think undebatable since it is a strictly voluntary activity many, many teachers usually love to freely provide. Still know there is also a big risk as far as popular opinion goes. The Student's Queen's Park Rally I reported on last weekend was sincerely supportive of teachers, but not all folks will necessarily feel the same or "get it", so to speak, like they do. See: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/education/article/1265862--students-lengthen-walkout-to-two-days

Big bad teachers form human shield around students to take bullets during sniper attack on Washington DC School. On 10th anniversary US teacher asks how this is measured in standardized teacher testing issue which remains very controversial stateside. Wow. Be glad, for now, we teach in Canada. For a real eye opener see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a-teacher-remembers-protecting-students-from-sniper/2012/10/02/c1cdbeba-0ca7-11

Get this: An Act Now article and petition about 60 union leaders being arrested in Turkey where union involvement is considered a terrorist activity. I hope Harper + Hudak doesn't learn about  this! Read + see petition at: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1592

PS: Pardon any the grammar + typos. I will recheck.

More to follow..............

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Liberals are toast next election. Please so not spend my dues supporting Liberal candidates. Even in riding where the NDP is third we must fund the NDP. Otherwise we will never build our allies to a position of strength. Don't overestimate the PC vote. It is not mobilized in urban ridings. The NDP can pick up Toronto and change the game.

angryoectateacherOTTAWA said...

David, I just returned from the O'dwyer visit to the Ottawa unit. 350 plus and standing room only. Very happy with the turnout. Lots of angry teachers and several asked for his resignation. He too said to date all have supported him. I am quite shock to read about the low number turn out in Toronto. Shocking! Lots of gobly
gook charlie brown responses. We want Oecta provincial out. This abuse of power must stop.

David Chiarelli said...

Thanks for this info. It's a real pick me upper.
The good fight continues!

Anonymous said...

I have never heard one single OECTA teacher speak in favor of the MOU. These are Orwellian times in our own union at the St. Clair Animal Farm.

David Chiarelli said...

I am trying too find out from the different units how the meetings went. So far I haven't heard from any that the members were pleased with the MOU. Everyone is pretty much operating in the dark too.

Anonymous said...

Newsflash....Halton OECTA elementary will be conducting a symbolic unit-wide MOU vote. All other units should do the same to let every OECTA member vote...like other teachers' unions do! Happy Thanksgiving!There's leadership to fill the current void!

David Chiarelli said...

Thanks 4 sharing this! Please let us know the results. Richard Brock is a real trooper + the unit rocks!

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