Opening Statement



Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Mexican Diary 4: Chichen Itza!

Janet and I headed out early morning for the three hour drive to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Last year we visited as well. The account is in my July 2011 Blog Archives, I won't repeat the details here. Suffice to say that this visit we returned to explore the Grand North Area surrounding  the Temple of Kukulkan. It's the most famous landmark, and by some accounts one of the seven wonders of the world. Last visit we explored the outer temples, observatory, and government buildings in the main surrounding city sections know as the Ossario, Casa Colorado and the Central areas. If you would like a quick history and overview of Chichen Itza see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza

We arrived before the crowds. The Maya vendors were setting up their market wears on the side of the trails and under the trees; masks, pottery, woodwork, linen and so on. Our timing was great.We could photograph a lot of the nearly deserted main sites without mobs of people milling about. Let me briefly tell you about some of what we saw.

Temple of Kukulkan: The great pyramid is being restored for the Mayan end of the world celebrations on 12 21 12, when their calender apparently runs out. Workers were carting rocks in wheelbarrows, chipping them to size and passing them up ladders scaling it's steep walls in buckets. Quite amazing to see. I imagine long ago the workers would've fixed it the same way. Now here they are doing it again the same way 8-900 years later. I walked about the four sides, in various states of repair. Some are more weathered and crumbling than others.The original structure is still in admirable shape, despite the passing centuries. The snake heads at the bottom are still recognizable. The temple on top, with it's stone relief looked fine. Visitors can't climb up the steps anymore. I watched  a worker fearlessly make his way up and down it's narrow steps, very risky. You may remember the pyramid, and indeed the whole Grand North Area as it was computer enhanced and reconstructed in the movie "Apocalyptico". Interesting fact. Yes, the live human sacrifices had their hearts cut out while they lay across the altar, that's till visible at the top, as a gift to the gods. However their heads were not chopped off until later. Still little comfort if you ended up spread out on the altar!

The Ball Court: The huge field still sported the original rock ball hoops mounted high up on the walls. The feathered serpent carvings at the top of the walls are still quite discernible. The north end temple is in remarkably good shape, the south one in rumble and ruin. Many of the stone bass reliefs around the court are quite clear and easy to see, others not. In my minds eye I could still imagine the excitement of the life or death games, like ghostly images from a time long past.

The Skull Wall: Outside the ball court, we followed it's length. The bass reliefs of vertically impaled skulls are weathered but easy to see. The Platform of the Jaguar and Eagles is being restored and it's very obvious to see they are consuming human hearts.

The Temple of the Warriors: The main temple building can still be made out but it is basically in ruins. The many stone pillars still stand erect each depicting a warrior hero, their names and deeds now long lost in the mist of time. Travel Tip: Come at dawn.You can walk among the jungle mist as it lifts to reveal the seemingly hidden city. It's said to have a very breathtaking and transcendent feeling.

El Melcado: The area around the stone shelved patio square where the original marketplace may once have been is still being regularly used by the Mayan venders. Please note, most if not all of the vendors are simply working on commission. Still the bartering is great. Most of the masks, sculptures and polished stones that we bought cost a fraction of the price at the souvenir stands, and hotel shops hotels along the Mayan Riviera strip. The selection was incredible. I understand the whole business is being run by the owners of the Silver Shop near the resorts.

The mid day heat was incredible. There was little if any breeze from the thick jungle surrounding the site. We were glad to have a picnic cooler full of ice cold drinks back at the car, when we returned totally drenched in sweat.

On the way back to the resort we stopped at an underground ceynote for a cool refreshing dip. The Mayan locals sat around the pools edge at the bottom of the cave to escape the unbearable heat, as I would imagine they have for the past few thousand years. The fresh river pool was 45 ft deep. Huge skatalites hung from the ceiling.Long thick tree roots dangled from the small sky opening far above, down to the water below.

We enjoyed ice cold bottles of Coke and plates full of very spicy handmade tacos at a little roadside stop. The food was delicious, perhaps the best I've had this trip. For our entertainment, Mayans in traditional dress danced before a huge painting of the great temple balancing open beer bottles on their head. Hmmm.

The city of Valladolid: We stopped at our favourite cafe in a hundreds of years old hollowed out stone Spanish building at the corner of the downtown plaza, or "parque". The parque is very much the centre of social life in any traditional Spanish city I've visited in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bedraggled Mayans tried to sell us home made hammocks. Across the street was a huge Catholic church. It was built atop an ancient Maya temple when the conquistadors arrived with cross and sword in search of Mayan gold, also eventually capturing Chichen Itza and using it as a horse farm. Much of the old city is built with stones from the original Maya settlement.

Afterwards most of the Maya scrolls or "codices" explaining the gods, their cultural, and accumulated knowledge were destroyed by the priests who considered them the work of the devil. Today, a million and a half Mayas still live in the Yucatan peninsula. Many work in the resorts, others sell souvenirs and artifacts on commission. Still others live a traditional life style in the countryside sans the human sacrifices. They do not have running water, electricity, schooling or other government services because they do not pay taxes. Instead they set up their own schools passing on their traditional language and ways to the young people. You can often see the Maya in traditional garb standing silently along the walls in the big tourist centres collecting the pop cans we throw away for the scrap tin metal. Truly they have been "saved" to become a lost people forgotten by time.

I visited the local church. genuflected, knelt in a pew and gazed at the elaborate Spanish altars, statues, and Stations of the Cross built atop the spilt blood of a lost civilization conquered for it's gold. I winced at the irony, in quiet prayer seeking forgiveness for the evils throughout human history done in the name of our different gods, be they Christian, Mayan, Hindu, Muslim or perhaps even moreso for the golden almighty dollar. I got up and left feeling rather wordless and ashamed of our flawed human condition which allows such horrors, from long past through to today. We have a lot to learn from the rise and fall of the Maya civilization. Perhaps some things never really change for the better, civilization itself but a thin veneer for the evil that still lingers within the human heart.


Maya workers repair the Temple of Kukulkan pyramid by hand as they must have hundreds if not thousands of years ago. More Chitzen Itza photos to be featured on this blogsite.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Mexico Diary 3: Whale Sharks

July 23 2012

My cousin Don and I drove to the boat docks outside Cancun at dawn today. It looked like a very old resort area, maybe even a fishing village before that. A ramshackle fleet of seafaring craft bobbed with the waves. Each usually had two modern twin 150-250 hp motors in the back. There were a few magnificent  catamarans. The crews were busy getting ready to head out for deep sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, or perhaps just a cruise. Don and I had booked a trip off the coast out past the Island of Women to go swimming with the whale sharks, in one of the largest known aggregate gathering place for them in the world.

You may or may not have heard of whale sharks before. Swimming with the whale sharks is on some peoples' "bucket list". The Yucatan peninsula provides a huge feeding area for these denizens of the deep, who are rumoured to be able to dive up to 1286 meters below the surface. They are whale sized but actually members of the shark family. They do not breath air. They are typically about 9 meters long, weigh 9 tonnes, and are are a air filter feeding species.

Think of giant shark vacuum cleaners sweeping back and forth under the water, rising near the surface, with their huge mouths wide open sucking in all the plankton, algae, krill and possibly small fish. A diver got sucked into the mouth of one at our location last year, but managed to crawl out unharmed. Fortunately humans are not a part of their diet. I will not dwell on the stats, facts and figures, of which little is really known. For more info a quick wiki trip should help. You can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark

I can't say swimming, or in our case snorkeling with the whale sharks is something I fear. I have been swimming, snorkeling and diving since I was very young. I've been bitten, scratched, chased by Barracudas, and caught in an undertow, I've swallowed a baby jelly fish once [not recommended], been swamped by waves, dived during a snow blizzard, and so on and so forth. I was ready for a good adventure. Truth be told whale sharks are relatively safe and I really feel alive in the water when I can swim with, or like the fish. Also I'd like some new underwater photos to update my blogspot. So off we go.

Our boat sailed out beyond the Island of Women and continued far into the open sea, somewhere over the horizon. There was no land anywhere in sight and it was a long ride. There was a small flotilla of ships and swimmers when we arrived, so we had to jockey for a spot. Soon enough the whale sharks were all around us. At any one time you could see the silhouettes and fins of at least half a dozen swim by. Here's how it works.

I'd sit on the side of the boat ready to dive in, when one was headed toward or past us. Then it's necessary to swim as fast as you can to catch up with it for photos and a good close up look. The whale sharks seem to just be obliviously going about their own way, doing their giant ocean vacuum cleaner routine. A 25 footer came up right underneath me. First time I have ever been bonked by a whale. As he continued on his way, I rolled mask over fins, tumbling down along his back, past the dorsal fin. Maybe he wanted me to grab on? We could go for a ride! I'd been told not to, it's not good for the sharks to be touched or something to that effect, so I didn't. I continued to slide down his back dodging the back and forth sweep of his huge tail fin. Floating upside down I continued to click photos as he swam out of view.

Two more came swimming past me, a few feet on either side, while I took more photos. Up close I could see their huge mouths, gills, fins and tail, up very very close once again. Torpedo shaped feeder fish trailed along it's under belly and sides, a common but quite fascinating whale shark sight.

It really was a major rush, and a darn good workout. My adrenalin was really pumping. It all seemed so unreal, but of course it wasn't. Surreal perhaps? No, the whale sharks were quite visibly there, all around me.
For awhile it felt like time had stopped, and all there was were the whale sharks, the sea and me.

My dive guide, Ancar was fabulous. Pretty, smart, competent, enthusiastic, and an excellent diver. Although we had to follow all the Mexican safety rules; wear wet suits, and no riding on the whale sharks etc., she also took me out for one last extra dive where we really pushed the envelop. Hooray for Ancar! If you go to the Mayan Riviera, check out the whale sharks! I usually don't do any commercial promos here on my blog, but for more info you can visit and even book excursions at: www.whaleshark-mexico.com


A whale shark up close during my dive! More photos are on the bottom left column below my blogs.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

OECTA PDT? Broten Raises Ante!

[Postscript: This post updated with additional links July 28. For a related read, see my July 16th "OECTA PDT: Catholic Principals Refute Deal" blog below]

Hola! I am lying poolside on a sunbed on the Maya Riviera. Perhaps you have been following my travel blogs? Anyway, I've got a good one to post on swimming with the whale sharks far out at sea yesterday, but it will have to wait. I suppose a lot of you are away for the summer too. There seem to be some recent PDT developments you may not be aware. Since they have just come across my scanner, I will post the links for you, and provide some observations later, here on this blog, when I get a chance on the next day or so.

Remember, these are just my own news and views blogs, for your summer info purposes. Make no mistake, they do not necessarily represent OECTA TSU's position. Blah. blah. blah. You have heard the disclaimer before. I just hope I help keep you in the loop if you can't access all the regularly provided info yourself, if it's been posted. Check www.oecta.on.ca and www.tsuoecta.org too for the official statements.

It seems the Education Ministry is raising the ante to get the other affiliates moving to reach a deal. Also the local school boards to reach teacher contracts based on the PDT terms asap, by August 31. I have discussed why the other affiliates have not reached PDT agreements, and why OECTA's PDT deal remains controversial. I have also touched upon the Catholic Principal's opposition to our deal, for their own reasons. We know the Catholic Trustees walked out before our deal was reached. Very interesting too!

The Ministry of Education is turning up the pressure to pass, what for them would be, a number of these impasses, in time for the new school year, and not afterwards, as has been claimed before, especially for us with our local OECTA contracts. Check my Blog Archives for June and July for more info. More to come later. For now, here are some links worth checking:

The main story was leaked to the Globe and Mail by the Ministry of Education yesterday. See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ontario-threatens-school-boards-with-takeover/article4439791/

For the Catholic trustees the intransigence lies with the non-monetary control issues presented by the fair hiring practices and recognition of independent teacher professionalism in student assessment, basically why they walked out of the talks in the first place on July 4-5 before the OECTA PDT agreement was reached. If you will recall from the OECTA Q+A handout included in my Study Guide blog earlier this month, our association has noted;


Why did you decide to enter into a deal with the government that the trustees would not support?We have been meeting with the government and the trustees for five months. It became clear that the focus for trustees was to protect the perks and benefits of senior administrators at school boards and to block any attempt we made to offer solutions that would direct more education dollars to the classroom or to minimize the impact of any agreement on our younger teachers. When the trustees walked away from the table we knew that if there was going to be a deal that was fair and equitable for our members and that protected the classroom for our students, the deal would be made with the government alone.


Now, consider these recent news articles. See: http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2012/07/24/province-appoints-investigator-to-whip-catholic-school-board-into-financial-shape/

Also see: http://www.thestar.com/living/parent/article/1231498--ontario-catholic-trustees-call-government-contract-deadlines-unrealistic

Ditto: http://www.recorder.ca/2012/07/27/board-blasts-province-over-loss-of-power

We know the Toronto Sun hates unions but hold your nose and read their board spin here: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/07/27/liberals-playing-hardball

The transparency of our Catholic school board financial numbers has long been a problem for OECTA when trying to negotiate our local contracts. Without doubt this has been strongly brought to the Minister Broten's attention in our recent PDT talks, where she was encouraged to question the Catholic School boards often befuddling facts and figures on why they wanted this and that in our agreement, be it from the trustee partners, the principals and so on. See what's being said now in regard to the Windsor Essex board financials: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/story/2012/07/25/wdr-windsor-essex-catholic-school-minister-finances.html

Also: http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2012/07/27/43078/

There is the underlying issue here of a government move to further centralize the Education Ministry's control over our local school boards, both Catholic and public, and to move towards province wide bargaining with our teacher contracts. That is a very important and controversial concern, of that there is no doubt. Our Catholic school board "partners" are now playing that card too: See: http://www.whoisinchargeoftheschoolhouse.com/2012/7/26/board-poses-the-question-who-is-in-charge-of-the-school-house

However we also know that the Catholic school boards have been and are worried about their "autonomy" in other ways too. Alas, for them, I doubt the denominational right's argument would hold much if any sway, with what's happening now, in regard to the local implementation of our OECTA PDT deal. As Catholic teacher unionists we are well aware of the  internal high handed control trickery practiced by our school boards for many years, religious concerns aside. It is a very parochial top down decision making management model that is now being specifically taken to task. From our Catholic teacher perspective, that is what I see as the real issue, on our end anyway, with the new contract deadlines and fiscal issues making the news. In that respect, I'd be very cautious of any carte blanch criticism of Education Minister Broten or Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's recent statements, as they effect the next step in Collective Bargaining at our own local unit levels. It is perhaps a controversial position, which I suspect some if not many of my colleagues might publicly disagree, in contrast to the importance of the broader provincial centralization concerns affecting all the teacher affiliates, including our own. Still I think it needs to be said.

More politics anyone? Neither of the links below are from good reliable media sources but for they provide some food for thought.

For your consideration on the big picture Ontario political party maneuvering that is also going on behind the scenes, see this link: http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/07/24/20024341.html

Also this link from a few days ago: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/07/20/education-labour-front-is-quiet--for-now

But for now, the beach beckons...............................

Post script: The sea was quite calm today, still stirred up, but not choppy like most of this week. I swam maybe 80 meters out to the breaker reef, with my snorkel gear and underwater camera. It was a great workout! Slowly making my way back to shore, I explored the coral formations and saw lots of schools of fish. Some of these photos are posted in my slide show on the top left of the screen. Afterwards I lay on a beach hammock under the palm trees, read my book, drank a bottle of water, and just loved the feeling of summer and being so free.


July 27th: We had another great excursion; a trip to Chichen Itza! Blog to follow.


July 29th: Janet and I walked a couple of kilometres down the fresh white sand beach. The sea was choppy, and there was just the sound of the surf crashing along the shore, lapping at our feet. The natural scent of the jungle and the sea breeze. The sun light was nearly blinding. I could close my eyes, just listen, walk, and feel. There was no darkness, no problems, no stress, only the sun's pulsating warmth, the sea, the beach, Janet and me.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Mexico Diary 2: Mayan Riviera

July 23 2012

We slept in this morning. I was going to get up but kept drifting off back to sleep. It felt so good. A lazy stupor; a luxury I can rarely afford these days it seems. We went for a late breakfast. The heat outdoors was like a furnace blast as soon as we stepped out of our air conditioned room. Afterwards we went with Don and Pearl and booked a few excursions. Don and I are going out to sea off Cancun to go swimming with the whale sharks, then afterwards snorkeling on the "Island of the Women" I know I know. Please no jokes. I am Catholic......in the name of the father and the son and................Janet and I are going to see the Mayan ruins at Chitzen Itza on Friday. Apparently ground zero for the end of the world on 12 21 12 if you are a follower of the Mayan calender, which runs out on the solstice. Ha. I think we got ripped off for some pesos on the exchange rate, it should be 11:1 Canadians dollar. Am not especially worried or p.o'ed. I can't recall having spent a centavo since we arrived except for some tips. A very good deal all around.

We lay among the palm trees just back a bit from the sand beach all afternoon. There was a very pleasant sea breeze. We relaxed on these four poster beds, with  mattress, cushions, a thatched roof, and sheer curtains. I lay there enjoying a summer read most of the afternoon, between dozing off. There was a red flag on the beach. It was too rough for snorkeling. The waitress kept refilling our drinks or getting us sandwiches. A late afternoon sun shower hit as we walked back along the beach, but fortunately a golf cart came by and gave us a ride back to our rooms. I think I will have another nap, then we have dinner reservations for 7:30. Last night was Mexican food, tonight I don't know. Don and I leave the arrangements up to Janet and Pearl.

The Maya Riviera is located along the western Caribbean coast of Yucatan Mexico, south of the city of Cancun. It is a tightly secured 5 star resort area with police and military checkpoints on roadways in and out of the strip. To the north is Playa Del Carmen, a small city famous for it's silver market and ferry boats to the island of Cozumel. To the south is the Maya archaeological site of Tulum. A white sand beach stretches along the coastline with many underground fresh water rivers pouring out into the sea.

Inland is mostly Mangrove jungles where excavations continue to uncover and restore more of the long lost Mayan civilization. There are still over a million and a half modern day Mayas living in the Yucatan peninsula, many working in the tourist resorts, many more spread out and living a simple, traditional lifestyle throughout the countryside. There are natural biosphere areas, also a huge coral reef, allegedly the second biggest in the world, running the length of the coast. We visited here last year, and my blogs from then expand a lot more upon our location if you look in my July 2011 Archives at the bottom of this column.

Tuesday July 23

We walked out the rocky point at the end of the beach to the salt pool today. It is cut out of the rock, huge, oval, and facing the sea. There are three terraces of reclining chairs, sunbeds, a bar at the top, with tequila and international drinks, all included, with our stay. I don't drink myself, but our room bar is stocked with 40 ouncers as well as cans of beer, soda drinks, water and peanuts.

Anyway, the sea waves recycle the water in the salt pool, through a small passage way through the rock, bringing tropical fish with them. It was quite tranquil and quiet except for he sounds of nature. We swam and worked on our tans most of the day. We could watch and hear the big sea breakers crashing along the rocky shore of the point. It is very, very hot, but once again, a wonderful sea breeze. I was content to just lie there with nothing else I have to do.

The rest and relaxation are most welcome after the year from hell at school last year. It's ironic! The real problem lies with the adults, and not my class of Autistic students. I've managed to continue to administer and try to expand the program, despite many absurd and unreasonable roadblocks and expectations, with the help of OECTA TSU, where as many of you know, I am the 3rd Vice President, and have been acclaimed for another year in office.

I shored things up at school by the end of June, for the summer break, and have been trying to keep you in the loop on  the controversial OECTA PDT agreement since then. I am very pleased with this great holiday to recharge my batteries for the many challenges the new school year will undoubtedly bring, on both the union and my local school fronts. I love the good fight, this is true, but whew! I love summer too! Mucho bueno!

Our Mexican adventures will be ratcheted up a few notches with a number of exciting off resort excursions during the next few days. If they've seemed pretty laid back so far this year, well now you know why.

A Boa Constrictor holding up traffic on our way home tonight! 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Mexico Diary 1: Flight to Cancun

July 21 2012 Flight to Cancun

High up in the sky I can look out above the white billowy clouds. The view is indescribable. Neither the greatest of wise men nor richest of ancient kings could have ever, in all their glory arose on a throne like as this, to see such a vista. Meanwhile, on board the airplane most folk are content to obliviously watch a third run movie, or just chat and sleep. I am quite happy to hold hands with Janet, gaze out the jet window, and fly away among the clouds, leaving life and all it's daily preoccupations far below. Wow! We are finally getting away!!!

July 22 2012 Royal Suites Yucatan

It was an exhausting day of airports, customs, luggage check ins and out, and finally a bus ride along the Mayan Riviera to the Royal Suites. We had a late day swim in the sea, and walked back to our room along the sandy beach. My cousin Don and his wife Pearl have joined us here again this summer.

We had a nice steak dinner and then a long, long sleep. In the morning Janet and I had breakfast in our room. I am sitting at the lobby bar now with a double expresso waiting for everyone to go to the beach. I plan to just swim, sun and perhaps nap under the palms while I catch up with myself, my cousin and his wife. Then our adventures can begin.

4pm: We lay under the palms for a while enjoying the sea breeze. Otherwise it feels like about 40 Celsius plus. Very, very hot, everything seems to move in slow motion with the sun relentlessly beating down from above. There are huge sprawling ferns, incredibly big, towering palms, jungle brush. The beach sand pure white, the Caribbean turquoise, and further out, royal blue. I pulled my reclining chair out under the sun for awhile, and could start to feel the year's stress dissipating in the heat and calm.

I swam out about 20 meters, then along the length of our hotel beach strip for maybe 250 meters, snorkeling in and out among the coral, following the fish. Brightly coloured Parrot Fish, Blue Tang, Stripped Sgt. Majors. Sometimes the water was thick with huge schools of fish, drifting in and out among the coral with the current. The water was rather stirred up, but it was a good first swim. Now we are back at our room for a siesta. The sky has clouded over. It is not uncommon this time of year to have an afternoon shower. An hour later everything is bone dry.

The Royal Yucatan is a five star, all inclusive, adults only resort. We probably couldn't afford it during high season. There are about 3 other attached resort areas for families, couples, singles, swingers, well, something for everyone. You name it, they got it here. We can go anywhere but our section is exclusive. They can't come here.

We have our own buffet, dining room, pools, room service and the best stretch of the beach. We can call for a golf cart to drive us around. It's unbelievable. Very bourgeois, I don't doubt, but sure is nice to just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Next month I will be off to stay locally in Santiago de Cuba and work at the schools doing my social justice thing. It's a balance of sorts. I make no excuses though, it feels great. We are going for Mexican food a la cart tonight.


Saturday, 21 July 2012

OECTA PDT July 21 Update

It seems everyone has slowed down a bit as we settle into summer holidays after the initial PDT excitement of July 5th. For better or worse OECTA has a done deal. ETFO has a PDT meeting scheduled for early August, last I heard.

The OECTA PDT roadshow visits Dufferin Peel Catholic August 23, OECTA TSU first week back at school. General Secretary Marshall Jarvis and President Kevin Dwyer will be visiting the locals for town hall meetings. It will be interesting to see the member response as everyone gets back to school business after a two month break. We know there won't be any OECTA job actions possible this fall. Our local TSU bargaining team is currently meeting to get a fix on what the deal will mean for our members, and to solicit our input.

Less certain is what lies ahead for ETFO and OSSTF. On August 31 everybodies contract expires. My best guess is that OSSTF will have an agreement in place, but ETFO probably won't. That's just my guess but check back then and see if I was right.

Apparently AEFO met back at the table but I haven't heard anything yet.

True OSSTF walked from their last meeting at the PDT table but I wonder if they will really want the headache of negotiating board by board come this fall if no provincial deal is in place. ETFO is in an especially hard position because they are 2 percent behind the rest of us on the salary grid due to past wrangling with the Ministry. I wish them well but can't see the Ministry being any softer with it's deadlines this round.

Meanwhile, here I sit at Pearson Airport waiting for our flight to Cancun. We have family to house sit and everything in order to finally get away for a bit. I will post my travel-blogs. We plan to spend a lot of time on the beach and I am very eager to get diving and snorkeling again. I brought my underwater camera so I should also have a good slide show to post. Watch for new travel photos most everyday. Today there are some from the airport, and a few from up in the air. We also plan to revisit the Maya ruins, and so on.

So please stay tuned for my latest news and travel blogs. The offer remains open if you'd like to submit a guest posting.

Next blog will be from Mexico!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Guest Blog Submissions?

Guest blogs are welcome to help keep the ball rolling while I am in and out throughout the summer. Ideally the blogs would represent a balance of interesting, constructive teacher perspectives and food for thought. When controversial, the bloggers would keep their facts straight by providing any helpful or necessary links and references to back up what they have to say. Other blog amusements and diversions are great to help keep the site from becoming too trying for a summer read too. Affiliate and non affiliate bloggers are invited. If  interested and can help out, please email me your submission in a word file to davechiarelli@gmail.com., the sooner the better.


PS: Travel-blogs are still forthcoming and most welcome too! Hola Mexico y Cuba y..................?

PDT blogs below. Keep scrolling. Also check Archives below this column.

Monday, 16 July 2012

OECTA PDT: Catholic Principals Refute Deal!

[Sorry! Spacing concerns remain.]


Today's "In the News" links at bottom of blog.


The letter as posted below was Googled at: 
http://www.ocsta.on.ca/newsletter.aspx
If that doesn't work Google "Jim Minello, July 6,
letter to the Catholic Principals" to  publicly see the pdf.


CPCO [Catholic Principal Council of Ontario] President Jim Minello sent the following letter to our Catholic Principals on July 6. Apparently under PPM 152 they are their own bargaining agents. As such they want  to open their own PDT meeting with Education Minister Laurel Broten, along with the [OPC Ontario Principal's Council].They also plan to meet with the OCSTA [Ontario Catholic School Trustee Association]. You will recall OCSTA walked out of the talks on the night the agreement was reached. The principals seem to be essentially objecting that "administration" views were not considered in the OECTA PDT agreement since all the "key partners" were not represented when the deal with the Ministry was struck. It will be interesting to see the Education Ministry's response!


Further links and commentary follow below.

July 6 CPCO Letter:

Ontario Catholic Teachers Reach a Deal with Province

You may have heard that the province has reached a labour deal with OECTA as published in the Toronto Star July 5th. OECTA also sent out a press release outlining some of the key elements of this two-year deal. The Memorandum of Understanding is available on the CPCO home page www.cpco.on.ca. It is important for members of CPCO to understand that this is a memorandum of understanding solely between OECTA and the government. Neither the Ontario Catholic School Trustees, nor their representatives, the partners, including CPCO, were part of the process during the final negotiations. All of us were very surprised by the press release.

The OECTA release of the key elements of the agreement infers that OECTA has bargained on our behalf. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were not part of any negotiation with the government. In fact, with the implementation of PPM 152, local principal and vice-principal associations now have the right to negotiate their own terms and conditions. This is an important position to keep in mind. In fact, CPCO recently supported a letter sent from the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC) to Minister Broten requesting permission to begin our own tri-level meetings to discuss terms and conditions.

You will read in the newspapers and in the OECTA release that all Catholic educators, including principals and vice-principals will have three unpaid days in 2013-2014. Additionally, you will read that these three days will occur during three professional development days. Attendance at PD days, paid and unpaid will now be optional. Short term leave and disability plans has been revised to protect educators who may need more than ten days off for serious illness, pregnancy or surgery. Retirement gratuity plans are grandfathered on a go forward basis and teachers have gained partial payment of salary grid increments over two years.

I want to reiterate that at this point we only know what we have read in the media. Since a key partner was not at the table during the final negotiations, it is safe to say that the views of management were not represented in this final round of negotiations. Obviously, we need to meet with our partners at the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association to determine the exact nature of this agreement and the actual language that has been agreed upon. Once we ascertain this and how the negotiation process evolved without the key partners at the table, we will be in a better position to comment publicly and with you, our members.

Jim Minello
President


A link to Policy/ Program Memo 152 [PPM 152] can be found at:
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/152.html

A link to the Catholic Principal Council of Ontario [CPCO] can be found at:
http://www.cpco.on.ca/

A link for the Ontario Principals Association [OPA] can be found at:
https://www.principals.ca/Default.aspx

The OCSTA [Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Website] is at:
http://www.ocsta.on.ca/newsletter.aspx

Commentary: I've perused Memo 152 and don't see where it specifically says CPCO, or for that matter OPC, is the Catholic principals' bargaining agent, but I might be missing something. Go see for yourself through the link above. I'm wondering if Jim isn't just desperately fishing around for something, anything to cling on to, but that at the Provincial Discussion Table, only the Catholic trustees truly represent management?

I've checked the OCSTA, CPCO and the OPA websites above, and don't see much current information posted for a while. Maybe it's posted on the "members only" page? Very secretive! Very Catholic! Everything seems private and under control, until the self ordained God the Father types become conspicuous by their absence. Then much to their chagrin everything blows wide open in their face. Tut! Tut! It seems PPM 152 is open to some interesting, self serving interpretations! It will be very interesting to see what comes of all this! We know the trustees did not fare well!

I seriously doubt CPCO is weighing in on the "nay"side of the OECTA PDT debate because of any heartfelt concern for us as teachers. That's how I read President Jim Minello's officious tone anyway. I don't doubt we have many fine, concerned and dedicated Catholic principals working with us in our schools! Still, I suspect here it's mostly a question of arbitrary power and control personally slipping out of the Catholic School boards' administrative hands, regardless of who is supposed to be representing their "management rights", OCSTA or CPCO. I'd have to give this letter a big thumbs down despite whatever doubts we as Catholic teachers might otherwise have about the OECTA PDT agreement.

Archie's Principal Mr. Weatherbee.

Also in the News:


Peterborough Catholic School Director surprised by OECTA deal, guestions legitimacy without OCSTA's participation: http://www.mykawartha.com/community/article/1396567--local-director-of-catholic-education-confused-and-surprised-about-teachers-deal-with-province


ETFO President Sam Hammond slams EQAO funding and bureaucracy costs in light of teacher PDT cuts. See: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters/article/1225690--disputing-teachers-dispute-facts

Saturday, 14 July 2012

OECTA PDT: A Study Guide!

I originally was going to provide an overview of our new OECTA PDT terms, and try to explain what they will mean for us as classroom teachers. I'm concerned that could be presumptuous. Also, I might inadvertently mislead you or misrepresent the details. Remember, these informal blogs only represent my own views and insights, and not necessarily those of my affiliation. When they do, I usually identify them accordingly, unless it's quite obvious. Here we are now, only half way through July.We are hearing more and more information and interpretations of the PDT agreement almost every day. It sure is getting confusing! So I am going to take a different approach.

Many of my readers are far from home on holidays. You might not have easy one stop access to all the information you need to know. We have teachers in Asia, Africa and Europe, in airplanes in the sky and in ships at sea. We are everywhere. I know you want to know more.

You are strongly advised to visit our official OECTA website at :http://www.oecta.on.ca especially if you can enter the members' area. OECTA TSU members are also encouraged to visit the official unit website at: http://www.tsuoecta.org I will continue to post my own PDT blogs here with more important news stories and links. I will also post commentary getting into more depth and detail on the different terms, interpretations and so on and so forth, as time goes by. This thread could easily last to December 31st, the date the government has set for our contracts to be in place.

Of course, August 31 will be real interesting too because that's when all our current contracts expire. Who knows what's next? This could drag on for years! Alas! It's still too early to try to say much that's definitive. So for now here is what I am going to do:

You will find below, an OECTA Study Guide. Ha. I know! This is the teacher in me speaking! ;-) It contains links to some main source materials for your own perusal. You are of course smart enough to think for yourself. What I will include is available publicly on the web, from a wide variety of sources. Here it's in one place for your easy access, wherever you might be.

I will add more links as they become available to this blog. Summer holidays, of course, come first! Rest up for the year ahead -we will need it! Still if you can, keep checking this particular blog from time to time. Of course there will be my regular updates too. Please share my blogsite address as you see fit. I am happy to increase my readership and help provide timely and important information, news, and views. It doesn't matter your affiliate. We are all teachers!

Here's what I am including now:

For starters, you will find the MUO [Memo of Understanding] at this link. Look it over very carefully for yourself. You may also need to refer back to it from time to time. It is our primary source. The link is:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/incoming/read-the-agreement-between-ontario-and-the-catholic-teachers/article4393004/


Here's a link for OECTA President Kevin O'Dwyer's letter to our members. If you are at home you should also be receiving a hard copy of this in the mail: http://www.elemdp.com/files/ADM-12_13-003-MemberLtrJuly5-12%5B2%5D.pdf

A comparison chart was also included in your mailing. It compares the original PDT terms with the OECTA ones in point form: http://www.elemdp.com/files/ComparisonChart%5B1%5D.pdf

Here is an OECTA PDT Question and Answer link that's making the rounds: http://www.elemdp.com/files/QA_DealJuly6[1](1).pdf

OECTA TSU members might want to refer to our local Bargaining Unit By-laws: 
http://www.tsuoecta.org/forms/TSUTeachersBARGAININGUnitBy-LawsUAGM2010FinalJune142010.pdf


Also our TSU 2008-2012 Collective Agreement: http://tsuoecta.org/forms/TSU_Collective_Agreement-2008-2012.pdf

TSU members can join the news list at: http://www.tsuoecta.org/newsletter/lists/?p=subscribe&id=2
Please provide non-board email address -this is union business!

Like I said, there will be more links added as they become available. Hope this helps you get a handle on our PDT agreement for the school year ahead!

Friday, 13 July 2012

OSSTF Rejects New PDT Talks!

[Saturday Postscript: Today's "In The News" links have been added at the bottom of this blog.]


OSSTF has withdrawn from the PDT table. The first meeting back was yesterday July 12th. OSSTF afterwards released a Collective Bargaining bulletin, citing differences with the Ministry table officers over alleged labour relation and labour act irregularities in the OECTA MOU. Here is the text of the bulletin:
Below, please find our latest bulletin on bargaining. We endeavour to provide the most up-to-date information, but due to the confidential nature of bargaining we are limited as to what we can share openly. Please find PDFs of Bargaining Issues Backgrounders below, and previous bulletins in the Related Attachments section at the bottom of the page.

July 12, Issue 16

Good afternoon
Dale Leckie, Brad Bennett, Vaino Poysa (in-house legal counsel) and Ken Coran attended an informal meeting with three representatives from the Ontario Government: Pat Sorbara, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Education; Gabe Sekaly, Education Finance and Paul Boniferro, legal counsel at McCarthy Tetrault.

The intent of the meeting was to better understand components of the OECTA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and clarify its implementation and possible impact on OSSTF/FEESO members. The meeting lasted approximately two hours and little, if any, clarity was provided. We criticized the bargaining process initially and the OECTA MOU is proof that it is flawed both in terms of process and structure, as well as content and implementation.

It is apparent that the MOU is also inconsistent with any existing Labour Relations Act and Education Act provisions. We did ascertain that the government is committed to meeting its financial targets by September 1, 2012 and that the parameters contained in the Ontario Budget are the driving force and must be included in any government approved settlement in the education sector.

Many questions remain unanswered; however, we are providing these points of clarification regarding the OECTA deal pertaining to the two issues members most frequently ask about: the retirement gratuity and the grid freeze.

A reminder that this deal was struck by the OECTA Provincial Executive and applies to OECTA members only.

Retirement Gratuity

The retirement gratuity is frozen at its current level. The numbers used in the calculation are the numbers in existence as of August 31, 2012No components of the formula can be increased. The government also indicated to us that other retirement incentives such as RRSP Plans will be eliminated as of September 1, 2012.

Partial Grid Movement

The partial grid movement that takes place on Day 97 and onwards, in both Year 1 and Year 2 of the MOU can be better understood through the following example:

A teacher completing a second full year of teaching who is expecting to move up one grid step in September, will not do so until the 97th day of the school year. There will be no retroactive payment of that grid movement for the first half year of service. The teacher will be paid at this new level for the next full calendar year. Therefore, the teacher will not be compensated for that second year’s regular grid step until the 97th day of that second school year instead of the first day of the second school year. Hence, they will have forfeited 50% of Year 1’s grid movement and 50% of Year 2’s grid movement.

To fund the partial grid movement, the OECTA deal includes the following concessions:
  • The Secondary Staffing Enhancement for additional teachers, scheduled to commence September 2012, will not be funded.
  • Previously negotiated elementary professional development funding has been suspended.
  • Three unpaid professional development days in the 2013-2014 school year where staff are not expected to attend. This amounts to a 1.5% reduction in salary.
It again is apparent that there will be no local ratification for the MOU and its inclusion in local collective agreements. The Government continued to reiterate its September 1, 2012 deadline and its expectation that there be consistency across the education sector regarding agreements.
It was made clear to us that in this MOU, OECTA has given up individual members’ rights to:
  • conciliation
  • sanction/strike
  • ratification
  • unencumbered local bargaining
Giving up these rights is unacceptable to OSSTF/FEESO and our members. We will be proceeding with the provisions outlined in the Labour Relations Act and will move forward with local bargaining.

Kenneth Coran, President

Education Minister Laurel Broten has since refuted the claims that any labour acts are being broken with the ratification process. She noted that  ratification is, "...subject to the governance structure of each federation." 


Education Minister Broten expressed disappointment in the breakdown of the OSSTF PDT talks. I hope to include that letter here later. If perchance you have an open file or link kindly forward it to me for publication purposes.

In the meantime here is OECTA President Kevin Dwyer's letter to our members explaining our ratification and collective bargaining process now that the MOU has been approved by our Provincial Executive and COP:


Dear OECTA Member:


To clarify the next steps in the local level bargaining process:  


On Thursday, July 5, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between OECTA  and the government, and was ratified by the Provincial Executive that same morning. The Provincial Executive was required to ratify the MOU prior to release of any information to Unit Presidents.  


The MOU will be incorporated into local collective agreement proposals. The parameters of the MOU 
cannot be changed and will not be subject to local ratification.  Following ratification by the Provincial Executive, on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 a meeting was held seeking endorsement of the MOU by the Council of Presidents.


As per the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA), each and every member will have the opportunity to 

vote on local issues in their local collective agreement. Following the expiration of all collective agreements on August 31, 2012, local bargaining with school boards may commence, but must be concluded by December 31, 2012. If a tentative agreement is 
reached between an OECTA unit and the school board, a membership ratification vote takes place. If the majority of members vote for ratification of the locally agreed changes, the agreement is implemented.  
 
Collective bargaining ends December 31, 2012. If there is no agreement, status quo prevails, which 
means the terms of the 2008-2012 agreement are extended for the next two years, except for the terms of the MOU. Between August 31 and December 31, 2012 (during bargaining), there will be no job action or strikes by teachers, and no lockouts by school boards. This is one of the parameters agreed to in the MOU. Boards cannot apply for conciliation, which means boards cannot unilaterally change the terms of the current collective agreements.  

In solidarity,
 
Kevin O’Dwyer/
OECTA President

In essence if you will recall from my July 10th Blog, "OECTA PDT: What Next?" our members ratify or reject the terms of the MOU by voting on their local contracts. See the blog for further explanation.



In The News


The Globe + Mail reports on OSSTF action: http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/high-school-teachers-abandon-talks-with-mcguinty-government/article2411140/?service=mobil

Here's the ETFO report:  http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-teachers-feel-betrayed-by-education-premier-union-says/article4101990/?service=mobile

Here's a report on what the Education Minister had to say: http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-education-minister-warns-teachers-school-boards-about-local-bargaining/article4099698/?service=mobile

Another one: http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontarios-elementary-teachers-strongly-urged-to-return-to-bargaining/article4099523/?service

This article examines some of the pros and cons of our MOU and examines it within in the context of province wide bargaining: 
http://www.lfpress.com/comment/2012/07/13/19985216.html

Saturday Commentary: The wider debate here would certainly seem to be focusing on local verses provincial wide bargaining, and the Ministry's hardline stand on Aug.31st when our cotracts expire.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

MOU Agreement Copies Etc?

I have been pondering the requests for pdf downloads when a simple solution dawned on me while driving around in my car today. This may be of some help to any teachers far away or on the road this summer. Email me and I can send you the file as an email attachment! My address is davechiarelli@gmail.com

Please use a non board email address as this is union business. I can also forward the appendices and president's press release. Hope this helps!

I am preparing an overview summary of the MOU to help you get a better sense of it. I will post soon. Meanwhile I am out and about Toronto today. Right now, I am at Second Cup having a coffee and availing myself of the free wifi. Of course there is the air condioning too!

I'm driving my old beat up Toyota 2000 with the rebuilt engine. Janet can have the new(er) car while she is at work. I have actually been getting nostalgic about the Toyota. It' a pretty basic model, nothing fancy, but I have driven it for years. Manual windows and sunroof. Plus if it gets dinged I don't care much. It's very simple and stress free.

Anyway, the air conditioning, fan and radio/cd player conked out! I should be freaking, but Jun our auto-tech teacher at school is going to fix it for me. Maybe not as bad as it seems. Meanwhile I'm kind of enjoying driving it about the city, windows rolled down, sun roof open, just the breeze in my face. Very retro. I live all year for summer, it's my favourite season, so it's a total summer experience if you will, with the recent heatwaves and all. Reminds me of going local in Cuba when I am down there on the school project and hanging out with my teacher amigos y amigas (friends). Maybe going to the beach on Saturday or something. Ha!

On my Cuban Schools trip I usually take everyone out to the beach before I head back to Canada. I remember one year we got an old beat up pick up truck. Loaded it with supplies, we even had to bring the t.v. Mama G. brought her rocking chair and sat on it all the way up through the foothills and along the coast, Beverley Hillbilly style. We got a nice seaside cottage by a private pebble beach. In the morning we would go see the fisherman heading out, and place our order. Sometimes we'd hike up the mountains side to a local dairy farm where we would get our milk, cheese, and eggs. Everything was paid for in local Cuban Pesos, which were worth about 25 for 1 Canadian dollar. I paid for everything which included a box of cigars, a case of beer and a couple of bottles of local rum. It cost me about $50.

We had such a lazy time of it. There was the a cool sea breeze, and we took frequent refreshing dips in the Caribbean Sea, the waves lapping up on the beach, the sound of millions of tiny smooth pebbles moving with them. There were huge sprawling palm trees and giant tropical ferns shading our abode. In the afternoon I would take a siesta Cuban style, everybody did, then we'd have a camp fire and fiesta late into the night. There were no, but no city or road lights anywhere, electricity could be a problem, but one could see all the stars shining, and the sliver of light from the crescent moon. Otherwise pitch black all around us. A real moment in time. Close my eyes and I can sill be back there on a long, cold, cold Canadian winter night; the  sun, the sea, the breeze, all the sounds and smells of nature......

Oh yeah, the rabbit ears on the t.v. set could only pick up a fuzzy black and white picture with a lot of noise, but the oldsters liked to sit around and watch it, thought it was great. It's a much simpler life.......

My MOU summary IS forthcoming, but for now it's back to summer mode for me!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

OECTA Deal Ratified By COP

OECTA COP [Council of Presidents] yesterday ratified our new PDT deal with the Ontario government by a 42 to 24 vote. President Rene Jansen will be sending our members a notice later.

I can speak for myself when I say that at Monday's TSU executive meeting I spoke out against the deal for a number of reasons I've touched upon here in my blogs, primary around issues of contract stripping.

So folks it's a done deal. Our CB [Collective Bargaining] team will now meet with our school board, the TCDSB [Toronto District Catholic School Board], to reach a local contract based upon the PDT terms. The government has said it wants all the contracts settled by December 31st. TSU is ready to get started asap anyway. Indeed our initial contract was approved at a General Membership this spring [see my Blog Archives]. It was forwarded to the board to meet the formal requirement that we had served them notice that we are ready to meet. We can now do so effective immediately. Remember, our current contract expires August 31st.

In my next few blogs I plan to briefly summarize the main PDT terms, and what they will mean for us as teachers. So please stay tuned. Much more official info will also coming through OECTA Provincial and TSU in the days and weeks ahead. I hope my summaries can help provide a useful overview in the meantime should you care to read them.

So, what are our other PDT partners now doing? OSSTF has announced plans to revisit the table, as has AEFO. ETFO seems committed to maintaining the hard line. They are in a particularly difficult position since their last PDT agreement 4 years ago ended up costing them 2% less in salary than the rest of us got.We now can only wish them better luck in this round. I mean that sincerely too.

Our Catholic Trustees Association is in a very interesting pinch. They walked out earlier during the all night session when the OECTA PDT agreement was reached. Snooze you lose! I hope to share their opening position on PDT with you. It was absolutely horrid and quite ludicrous. Shudder! Shudder! Shudder! Yup, three shudders worth, it was that bad! OECTA definitely opened the Ministry's eyes, and the trustees didn't get their way, big time. Plus they've also lost some of their management rights on a number of PDT issues. Out the window that goes. More about this when I write about the PDT terms.

For an interesting read on these developments and events, please see the updated Toronto Star article at::
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1224216--ontario-s-catholic-teachers-got-sweetheart-deal-says-tim-hudak

Here's a link for the July 10th CBC Metro Morning audio clip titled "Had To Agree". OECTA President Kevin Dwyer discusses the PDT deal including the sick day plan and union solidarity. You need flash for this. Go to: http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=2254758095

PS: Readers have asked if I can post the MOU here. It's 17 pages long, and that doesn't include the Appendice. Regretfully, no can do, in a blog! You will find a link to it in my July 5th blog though, and I think it's included in at least one other blog since then. I will try to learn other ways to post documents here on my site. In the meantime, please scroll down the page and you will find it there.

Interesting tidbit for anyone who's read this far: There are persistent, unconfirmed rumours making the rounds that Premier McGuinty personally intervened in the PDT talks, telling his team to cut us some slack on  sick days and the grid freeze. It would make sense. Our members across the province have been lobbying their local MPP's non stop all spring. Maybe he came to see the light on our equity and health concerns? Or maybe it was just a political move to reach PDT agreements before our teacher contracts expire August 31st?Or maybe both?

Anyway, the government PDT team would've been given the go-ahead sometime between the late June Liberal Convention in Sudbury, and the signing of our PDT agreement early in the morning on July 5th, if the rumour is true. There is quite a story here starting with the Education Ministry's about face with teachers this spring, any PDT Agreements reached, and whatever else happens next in Ontario politics this fall. Keep in mind our minority government situation, and a premier who might well soon leap to the national political stage, with the attendant provincial Liberal leadership race that would follow.

For any amateur sleuths out there might I suggest you start creating a time line of dates, times and events? Right now it would be good to focus on the the past two weeks or so, including overnight and the next morning of July 5th when our agreement was reached. Quite a few emerging details are scattered  throughout my past few blogs. Of course there are lots of theories. I am NOT suggesting a diabolical OECTA conspiracy or plot. Still let's play connect the dots to solve the puzzle!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

OECTA PDT: What Next?

[New feature: "In Today's News" links included at bottom of my blog!]

So, what happens next with our OECTA PDT [Provincial Discussion table] agreement? First, please note that the MOU [Memo of Understanding] OECTA reached is not a collective agreement. You will not get to vote on accepting the MOU. It has all ready been ratified, as part of the bargaining process, by Provincial Executive, who did so as our elected representatives.

Your duly elected OECTA TSU [Toronto Secondary Unit] executive met last night to discuss the terms with our president who will attend the COP [Council of Presidents] today. The local presidents are going to discuss the deal at great depth with Provincial Executive, the bargaining team and so on, as the next step in the process.

COP could theoretically decide not to ratify the agreement, which would pose an interesting situation as to how we proceed from there. However, the regular process is that our local unit CB [Collective Bargaining] teams will now work within the accepted terms of the PDT agreement to negotiate our own individual collective agreement contracts with each of the Catholic school boards.

You will vote to accept or reject your local unit's collective agreements once they are reached. As per the negotiation process, that is where you as a member get to vote and have your say, on your new contract or even by extension the PDT terms, if you reject it out of hand. You will then ultimately decide whether your collective agreement, based upon the PDT terms is accepted or rejected. As I understand it these are common negotiation procedures and nothing special OECTA has come up with, though I stand to the corrected.

Of course, realistically speaking, once provincial executive has approved the MOU, it is very hard to fight back at the local unit level by rejecting your contract. We could end up with a series of local "brush fire" rebellions, if you, will but they would lack the greater force and backing of OECTA provincial who have all ready ratified the deal. I doubt your unit would get much traction against the PDT deal by going rogue in such a manner.

Of course, if you approve of the PDT deal, as many members do, this is all a mute point. If you don't, and there are a lot of objections as well, ones other recourse either way comes up as a part of the democratic process during the provincial executive elections at next spring's OECTA AGM [Annual General Meeting].

Please know the phones have been ringing off the hook at the TSU office with your PDT likes and dislikes both being expressed at great length. I am bound not to reveal much about last nights "in camera" TSU Executive meeting since they were held in private.

Since the following concerns my own actions, let me say I voted against going into private and asked that the vote be recorded. Perhaps my position wasn't very practical, but I find the lack of timely information for our membership unacceptable. I am not happy with the provincial communication process to date at all. Be that as it may, strategically speaking the executive did have to discuss a lot of sensitive information quite freely without the political or confidentiality constraints an open meeting would pose. Perhaps it was an unusual request, but I needed to make a point, if not then there, then here now sharing my vote with you. Tiddly bits, I know but still.....

Suffice to say the pros and cons of the MOU were hashed out at great length and depth. Today President Rene Jansen goes to COP having heard an earful both ways, from both the membership and our executive. I have known and worked closely with Rene for many years. I am sure he will not discount either in representing our members interests at the COP. That's about the best assurance I can give you for now, whatever your views on the PDT agreement. So it goes and on and on and on, as author Kurt Vonnegut was so apt to say.

As you know my blog represents my own teacher union news and views, and is not an official mouth piece for OECTA TSU. This is me writing. I have explained the rationale for writing my blog at great length in my Blog Manifesto which you can still read or reread anytime in my Blog Archives located below this centre column. Some TSU'ers believe my blogs are a responsible, accountable and good modern way for me to communicate effectively with you, the members I represent. Others froth at the mouth at my mere mention. So be it.

I understand I walk, or rather write, a delicate line on my blogsite. I can and do share my background knowledge having been involved in OECTA politics and teacher government relations for a good many years now. I also try to reasonably follow the protocols on discussing controversial issues and sensitive matters. As important as I believe that is, it is not easy to do. Our union communication protocols definitely need to be redefined to reflect all the new information technology around us today. Like it or not, it is a fact of life.

A modern day Pravda blogsite is of little reader interest or use. I have never been one to toe a party line and writing party think anyway. My readership numbers, as recorded in the viewer visits counter at the top right of my site indicate that there is a lot of interest in the service I try to provide.

Usually I am recognized and greeted warmly, at the grassroots level anyway, as the blog guy when I make the rounds representing you on unit business. Allow me to venture, I must be fulfilling some important needs.

Let's also note that since July 5th, a tidal wave of information on the PDT deal has crashed all over the internet, with very little of it coming straight from OECTA. Indeed most of the information links I am providing, including to the MOU, came through other affiliates and internet sources. They were widely available from within 12 hours of the signing, if not sooner. That's no big secret, let me tell you!

OECTA is prudent in not wanting to say too much too soon since we are involved in a negotiation process. However there is also danger in saying too little, leaving the membership in the dark, and creating an impression that we are perhaps not being accountable to our membership. If you read the comments to my blogs or even just listen to the scuttlebutt on line and around the BBQ's this past week, there is sometimes a whiff of betrayal, whether it is warranted or not. Think this through as a member. Provincial President Dwyer announced that we were "nowhere near close' to making a deal on June 25th during the last week of school. Indeed, I faithfully reported, discussed and offered assurances with that in mind as everybody headed out our school doors for the holidays. See my "What Was Said" blogs on OECTA PDT from then.

Then on July 5th, one week into our holidays after everybody has gone their separate ways, it is suddenly announced that a deal has been reached. Ouch! I have received surprised, even shocked member enquiries  from as far away as Europe and Asia. Is it illogical for a member to worry that the deal was announced now on purpose, when they are away on summer holidays, and that a big cover up is going on?

In collective bargaining, as in politics, anything can and does happen. Still, in our present scenario it is not hard to feel blindsided. These sentiments can take on a life of their own, especially when little information is coming from OECTA. I strongly suggest a constructive review of our communications strategy will be needed to address these concerns for future use. One simply can not contain and regulate information in the old tried and trued ways with even the best of intentions anymore. Like it or not, that is the new reality.

I will continue to keep you advised and up to date on any important developments as they occur throughout the summer months. Hopefully, with the holidays here, I can definitely focus upon a lot of other interesting and not so trying escapades and escapes too. However, it is necessary to expand more on each of the terms in our OECTA PDT MUO in order to fully be in the know.

Your teachers' union has demonstrated a lot of fine negotiating skill in regards to the grid freeze, sick days, gratuities, and non monetary concessions that have been reached. Like many of you, I have serious concerns about contract stripping, union solidarity, and the economic debate. Still, we need to examine the terms of the MOU, and consider very carefully the undercurrent of provincial and union politics that will best inform our discussions and debates, in the union offices, or even out on our balcony's or backyards at night.

Alas, it is a fine summer day and the outdoors beckon. I will further address the issues in today's blog later on. Please stay tuned, and also know there is still a lot of more lighthearted summer type fare to come. Probably like many of you, PDT is one of the unlikeliest things I would like to dwell upon during my summer holidays, but so it goes, and on and on and on........................

To be further proofed, I'm outta here............




IN THE NEWS: TODAY'S LINKS:


OSSTF and AEFO to revisit the PDT table. Tim Hudek not impressed with OECTA Agreement. See:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1224216--ontario-s-catholic-teachers-got-sweetheart-deal-says-tim-hudak

He's got another plan. See:
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1224559--conservative-tim-hudak-pushes-plan-for-poverty-not-prosperity#.T_y641P


Saturday, 7 July 2012

OECTA PDT: Some Reading!

Please note: additional links added....

My updated review of the Joint OSSTF, ETFO, AEFO and CUPE news' conference follows today's post. The following links provide an excellent appendice, as a follow up to what I saw and heard.

Here is the OSSTF Press release:

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/osstf-feeso-defends-right-to-bargain-for-its-members-1677305.htm

Here is ETFO's Press release:

http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1004449/catholic-teachers-deal-jeopardizes-ontario-s-education-system-young-teachers

OECTA Provincial's various press releases can be accessed at: http://www.oecta.on.ca

Here is a good summary on CUPE's overall position on PDT, a petition too:

http://www.change.org/petitions/dalton-mcguinty-stop-attacking-teachers-for-a-recession-and-deficit-they-didn-t-cause

Text the Ontario Liberal Party at 70734 for instant updates

Here is the MOU [Memo of Understanding] for our OECTA PDT deal. OSSTF and ETFO has shared it with their members, the Globe and with with readers across the province. It's hardly a Confidential Document anymore:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/incoming/read-the-agreement-between-ontario-and-the-catholic-teachers/article4393004/

For bargaining and other news join the TSU News List:

http://tsuoecta.org/newsletter/lists/?p=subscribe&id=2

Read today's Toronto Star Reports on the Joint Press Conference at:

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1222365--dwight-duncan-urges-other-unions-to-follow-catholics-teachers-lead

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1222853--mallick-ontario-teachers-unions-need-to-compromise-on-wages-sick-days-bank

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1223176--cohn-how-dalton-days-produced-a-miracle-for-catholic-teachers

Know thy enemy! There's the National Post if you are interested:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/06/scott-stinson-you-know-that-imminent-deal-with-ontario-teachers-union-yeah-maybe-not-so-much/

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/05/scott-stinson-ontario-throws-down-the-gauntlet-and-more-at-its-teachers-unions/

And of course to read Tim Hudac's "Flexible Labour Markets" White Paper about what he'd do with all us union types if elected go to:

http://www.ontariopc.com/

You can poke about the NDP site but I don't see anything about the recent PDT developments, or for that matter teacher unions.Perhaps I've missed something. Check it out yourself:

http://ontariondp.com/en/

By the way, our trustees association, [OCSTA] walked from the table before the PDT deal was signed, and apparently got "blindsided". There is some speculation they left over management rights, in particular the fair hiring practices language, but I am still not perfectly clear on this. Anyway, see the Globe + Mail article at:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-cut-school-boards-out-to-reach-deal-with-catholic-teachers/article4392116/

Info on the OECTA PDT deal is readily available from a wide variety of sources, the newspapers, media, even the other affiliates. I myself have received little from OECTA. There is a member's section on the OECTA website, but nobody I've been in contact with can remember their password or login. You are supposed to phone OECTA Provincial to reset it. The secrecy seems rather ridiculous and counterproductive, at least to me, under the circumstances. A special tip of the hat to Wendy Hirschegger from OSSTF for her daily email list of news and press links. We definitely need a service like this too!!!!!!

Friday, 6 July 2012

OECTA Deal: OSSTF ETFO CUPE Press Conference


First off, greetings to those of you from OSSTF and ETFO who recognized me at the press conference from my blog. I'm honoured to be so widely read. As it transpired, for whatever reason, I didn't get tossed out on my butt. I have a blog report to post on the Joint Press Conference, held by ETFO, OSSTF, AEFO and CUPE at the Sheraton Hotel at 10:30am today, as promised.

I have posted photos on my slide show. They sometimes take a while to appear and seem slow today, but they are coming. Sometimes a picture says a 1000 words. Well, you can look and decide for yourself. I'm not sure myself, but at any rate, they are always an interesting addition, and can help flesh things out, with a more human touch.

I am revamping and adding on to my "quickie blog" posted earlier today. I was downtown. It was sunny and hot. I realized I haven't been out much since school ended, so I enjoyed a little music shopping on Yonge St. Also a stop or two for a frozen coffee and icy soda while I just relaxed in air-conditioned splendour watching folks pass by the coffee shop windows. The Toronto tourist season is certainly in full swing.

I walked up Yonge Street to Bloor Street, then headed a block west to  meet my wife Janet. She got out of work early today. We enjoyed mussels in a tomato cream sauce and a Caesar salad sitting in the solarium at the Bloor Street Diner overlooking rush hour on Bay Street in  the Toronto financial district. The Bloor Diner is pretty much a Toronto institution. Old school Toronto perhaps. Well healed with a few trendies but never, in my experience, stuffy or pretentious. Outside of being polite and respectful one leaves any attitudes at the door and doesn't have to be particularly dressed up or put on any airs. Check it out some time if you haven't, especially if you're just visiting Toronto!

It can be a quite a very Toronto experience, and is open all hours, or at least very, very late. Oh the stories I could tell.......

I know. I know. I digress, but it is summer holidays........................... :-)

Anyway, I haven't read or seen the news reports yet, nor have I talked to anyone at OECTA, so these are just my immediate impressions of the press conference, take or leave them as you will.

Not much new, if anything, was seemingly said except to reassert each affiliate's position. I did not hear any immediate public snarling or gnashing of teeth over OECTA's PDT deal. Nor did I hear much direct reference to the terms of the new agreement either, from the joint presidents. The MOU was widely leaked and readily available on line from the Globe and Mail. In fact, I got my copy from an OSSTF connection overnight. On the whole the press conference lacked any news or views I haven't heard before. With all due respect to my colleagues in the other affiliates, I'd pretty much have to rate it C minus, and wonder why it was set up at all. I'd really expected some fireworks.

ETFO President Sam Hammond seemed most strident, comparing the Liberals to the Harris Conservatives. He also claimed Minister Broten wasn't very accommodating in meeting for any further talks with ETFO. A Toronto Star reporter focused on his strategy of going after the Liberals when a a much more voracious Conservative opposition is waiting to be elected, so they can implement the extreme anti-labour platform outlined in the recent White Paper they have been waving around. Maybe it was just me, but I could not quite follow Sam's response, except to note that he really is royally p.o'ed with the Liberals.

OSSTF's President seemed to pretty much stay the course on the themes of lack of discussion and the unacceptable PDT terms put forth by the Liberal government this spring. He emphasized teachers being unsettled and ill at ease with the way they are being now being treated by the Liberal government. He talked about how OSSTF wanted what was best for the teachers and so the students. He argued cuts certainly won't remedy the situation.

AEFO's Acting President did not have a translator. I'm afraid I am not bilingual so most of what she said was lost on me. However, a francophone reporter seemed rather exasperated in repeatedly asking her why the new PDT offer wouldn't be good for the students, a position she also seemed to be insisting upon.

CUPE's President pretty much repeated the well known union argument against the Liberal government's approach to the current economic crisis. Also that any form of contract stripping sets a bad precedent and is completely unacceptable for labour, teachers and support staff alike. The other presidents all were on the same page in their focus on the PDT deal. At no point though did I hear a clear concentrated attack upon OECTA, nor the details of our agreement at today's press conference. There was some talk about the need for solidarity, and  a reporter also asked about that too. Certainly none of the presidents were about to uncork any champagne bottles in our honour, as I had guessed, but the exact details of the OECTA deal were not discussed at any great depth or length either, if at all.

Quite frankly, the press conference seemed rather dull and uneventful. I don't know exactly what I expected the joint presidents to say, but again, I didn't hear anything of special note. It will be interesting to see what the media will pick up on. And no, I didn't get hassled, though I suppose everyone just considered me the blog guy, if at all, so all seems to remain tranquil -for right now that is :-)

However tomorrow is a different day. As is the day after that and the day after that and the day after that. Please don't interpret my observations to think everything is fine and dandy. Odds are that there's still much excitement and many more challenges ahead. Let's hope cooler minds continue to prevail.

Kindly note, all the "Comments" submitted in response to my blogs have been "con", or against OECTA's PDT deal. That's why I published so many of them of that bent. I can only hope this shows journalistic integrity because I am of course an OECTA member.

Our OECTA TSU executive meets on Monday, before President Jansen attends Tuesday's OECTA Provincial's COP [Council of President] meeting. There's certainly a lot to think about and discuss. Also more info to gather. Definitely I will want to discuss our OECTA position on the PDT deal further in my upcoming blogs once I can get a better bearing and perspective on all that's happened.

Stay tuned for more news, views and interesting links as they become available to post.

Well it's past midnight, and bedtime beckons. I hope this helps even if only in some small way for now.


Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
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Youtube Bar: Afrika Bambaataa!

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Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

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A careful analytical study!

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Have you seen them!

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Look! I can crawl thru walls!

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The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

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Temples + Snakes!

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The Snake!

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It runs the length of the ball field!