Opening Statement



Sunday, 27 January 2013

OECTA's J25+J26 Protest: Some Unofficial Notes!

Acronym list on my January 13 blog

IMHO [In My Humble Opinion]: Yes! This does not represent OECTA's official opinion or account of this weekend's activities. It's just from me, David, who most of you know by now. 



OECTA gets ready to march from Allan Gardens

This weekend's protests in Toronto were a remarkable union success. Our estimated numbers range from between 15-25,000. Allan Gardens was packed tight. On our march we blocked Yonge Street, then Carleton. Out front of Maple Leaf Gardens we formed a sea of union supporters, banners and protest signs. A splendid time was had by all. Our sheer numbers and enthusiasm definitely made a great public point of our common struggle to protect union rights and political democracy in Ontario, during the OLP leadership convention where our new premier was chosen, Kathleen Wynne. It was a historical weekend indeed, in many different ways. Will it be a harbinger of change? We will just have to wait to see. These are exciting times indeed

Many of my readers and the other protesters have expressed surprise! Where were your OECTA brothers? Sisters? Your leadership? Well my friends, let's consider the J25 and J26 OECTA participation in the protests very carefully. What did or didn't happen + why?

We need to start at the beginning. For our purposes that will be July 5th when OECTA Provincial Executive ratified the OECTA MOU with the MOE. I know. We are going back a quite a bit before we arrive to the protests, but please bare with me. I think everything will make a whole lot more sense.



Waving our flags out front of the protest stage in solidarity with our other teacher unions.

Members will recall that OECTA Provincial didn't actively encourage our local units to participate in this fall's MOU protest rallies. By the same token they couldn't tell our local units not to. Obviously it wouldn't look good if OECTA Provincial approved the MOU for us, and then was engaged in protest action against it..The deal had been signed. Local contracts were obediently ratified by each unit with the school boards based on the information received. These were then submitted to the MOE by the December 31st deadline with few exceptions. Quite frankly, what did the pro OECTA MOU side at Provincial have to protest about until then? Why encourage, support or help us get mobilized for the teacher union protest that now rages around us? Quite frankly, I am sure some felt it was to their advantage not to.

OECTA's participation in this Saturday's OFL protest rally in Toronto was agreed upon some time ago. Here Provincial was more ambivalent about joining in with the other teacher affiliates + labour unions again, but on our terms. In addition, it would be a small victory for everyone at OECTA Provincial or on COP who had not approved of the MOU or Bill 115. They would throw us a bone. 



Together with some of our ETFO colleagues in front of the police line.

It was understood in the PDT negotiations on July 5th when the MOU was ratified that all the affiliates would be required to sign a contract, even though the deadline kept shifting. Some at OECTA Provincial did not interpret that to mean anything like Bill 115 would be used to enforce the OECTA MOU until it was announced. Others thought it would be far worse.

The pro MOU side at OECTA Provincial ultimately found the draconian Bill 115 very useful  when they evoked it against our own membership. You will recall they attempted to have our local OECTA complaints about how they had ratified the MOU thrown out at the OLRB hearing in November. OECTA Provincial's lawyers argued that while Bill 115 was in effect the OLRB could not rule on the OECTA MOU ratification process. Then at the beginning of this January, Bill 115 is repealed? Please know you can make a deal with the devil but you need to beware he doesn't throw you off the bridge halfway across. What to do?

There has been an inner struggle going on up at Provincial and with the different local units that most of us know very little about. It will climax at the March OECTA AGM, especially with the executive elections. It will be especially interesting to see how that goes now that the game rules for the MOU under Bill 115 have changed. Also since ETFO and OSSTF have not backed down or have their protests and job actions been quashed in their continuing opposition to the MOE. Nor do they seem very grateful to us of courseIf anything the teacher protest movement has only grown stronger and more determined. None of this would have been expected by the pro MOU side at OECTA Provincial when it was approved. The OLP was covering their back!



Teachers on the front line!

Meanwhile the date for an OFL rally had not been set this fall but there was an understanding that OECTA would join the other affiliates when it occurred in the new year. Probably it had been arranged at the executive level with the other affiliates through the OFL as a part of the larger goal of coming up with a common front for the provincial election ahead. How so? Why would OECTA be welcomed back after breaking ranks

There was and so far still is a delusional belief by many of the pro MOU OECTA Provincial faithful. You get it from drinking too much red Liberal kool aid I think. It seems like a lot of otherwise good people fall under it's spell. Although the OECTA MOU was opposed by all the other affiliates, the faithful believed they would be ultimately relieved that OECTA had gotten them a better deal than they had faced under the original PDT terms. After Bill 115 forced the OECTA MOU upon them, all would eventually be fine and dandy again. All would be forgiven in time. OECTA would be back up on stage with the other union leaders. We'd all march on  together again. That could take place at the OFL rally after the MOU deadline set for the end of the year.

On January 17th OECTA Provincial executive finally approved a motion against Bill 115. You  will find it below. Our members were advised accordingly. It took a number of provincial executive votes to agree and as you can see it was a nuanced resolution that was passed. Meanwhile it was time for OECTA Provincial to also become engaged again with the other unions in the teacher + labour protest movement at this weekend's J26 protest. They knew it was coming from the fall. However it was not under the same circumstances that some on executive would have hoped for. With the repeal of Bill 115 and the other affiliates continuing opposition against the MOU and the MOE, the situation had become very fluid and uncertain. Was it slipping out of the pro MOU side's control? Oh to be a fly on the wall during that Provincial executive meeting! I'm sure it was a very interesting and heated debate indeed. The motion reads:
That OECTA oppose Bill 115 because of its impact on Collective Bargaining rights.”
A] On Thursday January 17, 2013, the Provincial Executive passed the above motion regarding Bill 115 and collective bargaining rights.
B] The pending Repeal of Bill 115 will need to be assessed for its impact on Alternative Dispute Resolution under the MoU and on the OLRB challenge regarding member voting on the MoU.
Point B is quite interesting. Think again about the November OLRB hearings. OECTA Provincial had argued against the labour board hearing our local unit + member complaints about the OECTA MOU ratification process on the grounds that Bill 115 did not allow it. However, since then Bill 115 has now been repealed. What will happen with the local complaints when the OLRB reconvenes next month to continue with the hearings? It now seems to be a quite different legal situation altogether. As you can see in the above motion there are those on OECTA Provincial who definitely need to talk to their lawyers some more now that they can't block the complaints by using Bill 115 again. Another control issue? More on this later when I continue with my reports on the Metro 7 OLRB complaint in specific. Suffice to say OECTA arrived at the J26 protest date on pretty shaky feet.



Goodbye Premier McGuinty!

There were two teacher protests this weekend: the J25 and J26, on Friday and Saturday respectively. Let's step back from the Saturday J26 protest for a moment to consider, in specific OECTA TSU + TECT's involvement with the ETFO ETT and OSSTF D12's  Friday night J25 Rally outside Maple Leaf Gardens. This situation was somewhat different. All four of these local units are from Toronto. ETT and D12, of course, did not agree to the MOU, it was forced upon them by Bill 115. The TSU + TECT presidents had both voted against the MOU at the OECTA COP meeting in July. TECT did not ratify a local contract with the Catholic board before December 31. TSU did.

Know that the decision between these four public and Catholic units was made separate and apart from OECTA Provincial's participation at the OFL organized J26 rally on Saturday. The J25 rally had been informally discussed and confirmed locally by our units on a number of occasions. The motivation seemed to clearly be there; all our units had officially been opposed to OECTA Provincial's ratification of the MOU.  Indeed, a notice went out about the J25 rally a month or so ago to our members in the TSU Highlights newsletter. Everything seemed ago as of last week.

Formal executive approval from each unit affiliate had been delayed due to the different processes each needs to follow to confirm participation in such a protest event. I'm not sure what happened at ETFO ETT where the process is especially complicated. However our first VP and I had directly confirmed with AL from ETT that their unit had approved the J25 last week, when we met at the MOE protest. Next our TSU PAC had forwarded an "action direction" for our unit executive to approve TSU's participation at the J25 rally. Our members of course would need to be notified accordingly in a timely manner. 



Nice to see the young folk form a new protest vanguard circa 2013!

Here the quite simple gets very confused. I am on the executive. I have never seen nor been consulted about the directive. Our protocol going back to when I first started as TSU PAC Chair in 2000 is that when an important PAC request has to be approved by TSU executive in a time sensitive manner, our TSU PAC executive liaison would forward it to the executive immediately. We would then consider and ratify the PAC motion or directive asap, even if it needed to be done by a phone or email vote on short notice. Every executive member is entitled to a vote. Only sounds accountable, transparent + democratic, no? See my Friday night protest blog to see what happened when that did not happen. 

J25 was at best nominally a local OECTA event.  No wonder our colleagues from the other affiliates had a hard time seeing us there! Same with the Liberals arriving to the convention for the tribute to outgoing Premier McGuinty. We certainly didn't rain [or for that matter snow] on the McGuinty farewell festivities! Not OECTA. Even if it was all an accident, I would think the OLP was very pleased with some of us at TSU again! We had ratified our contract asap to meet their Dec 31 deadline and now our dissidents didn't cause much of a stir nor create a lot of attention on night one of the party convention either. 

Since the rally was no longer about the MOU and Bill 115, and was a locally organized event I should think it wasn't otherwise particularly controversial for most of our local executive. Our unit executive seemed to me very concerned about the province's violation of our Collective Bargaining rights, regardless of the other ways in which most if not all of them have disagreed with me over quite a few related issues since the OECTA MOU. I should think that approval and notice of the J25 rally would be a pretty straight forward matter regardless of one's position on any other issue.As far as party allegiances go our longstanding policy has been that we all are teachers first and foremost, not Liberals, NDP or what have youTSU PACs action directive would be voted upon and I'd bet be approved, and the information would be forwarded to our membership immediately as in past emergencies so that every body knew about the J25 rally. Colour me very puzzled. The members only got one notice in an issue of our unit's Highlights newsletter, and that was before all the details were even known.  



Here's Bad Boy Brock + I on Saturday. Our OECTA flag was accidentally at half mast. Ironically though, is that appropriate these days.

Anyway on the night of Premier McGuinty's tribute, it was basically only myself, the PAC Chair and a small handful of members who joined the protest waving our OECTA flags outside the OLP leadership convention on McGuinty night and in any way providing a fly in the political ointment that might tick off the OLP. 

Still, Saturday looked more promising. OECTA Provincial had approved and posted a link to information about the Saturday J26 rally on the provincial website. Our local president, Rene Jansen, had distributed the information by flyer with an email follow up notice. Indeed all our rank and file OECTA members across the province could meet up informally and at a political protest with our provincial executive leaders. We usually did so during the Harris years. It's good for team building and helpful in starting to mobilize our members when there is danger ahead. Surely one cannot be faulted for thinking this was a great chance to rally our provincial executive, local unit leaders and members collectively under our OECTA banners at Allan Gardens, then as we marched up Yonge Street together, and turned up Carelton to protest in front of Maple Leaf Gardens.

I was among the first marchers to arrive with the OECTA contingent and the last to leave. Alas. We were a small but very dedicated group of OECTA protesters basically marching alone. I was present from OECTA TSU executive as were two other councillors, a past 1st VP and a retired councillor whom we all know as Sparky. I saw the presidents from Toronto, Halton and Sudbury elementary units. There may well have been some more that I didn't recognize or see around much. Dunno. I always look for our distinct teal coloured OECTA flags, a pretty good indication of how many members are there. Comparatively speaking there weren't very many. 

Of course past OECTA Provincial President James Ryan marched with us all as he usually does whenever there is a protest. The Metro 7 had a contingent out. Otherwise? I have pretty much accounted for everybody all ready on my Saturday protest report. No wonder a lot of you from the other affiliates didn't see us on either Friday and Saturday. There weren't very many of us there!



TSU staff rep AT and an unidentified OECTA M7 protest member on the march!.

 Since many at OECTA believe OSSTF and ETFO  will now appreciate what we have accomplished with the OECTA MOU, one would expect that our OECTA Provincial President would be back up on stage with the other teacher and labour leaders. No? OECTA Provincial should actively and visibly be represented in solidarity with the teacher labour movement so we can now all move on together. No? Formally speaking one expects the president of any union that was there would have also have mixed with all their members to help show confidence and leadership, perhaps even join them afterwards at the pub. No? 

So what happened? Why weren't more of our OECTA members + leadership actively out protesting on Friday and Saturday with us + the other unions? Is it because of widespread apathy? A lack of leadership? Or direction? I find it very hard to believe it was because everybody is just so delighted with the OECTA MOU, the ratification, and the Ontario Liberal Party that nobody felt it was a big deal or that they needed to go. Or that so and so forgot, made a mistake or just couldn't make it. Nope, not on the scale we experienced. Not on such a monumental occasion.



Our OECTA TSU activists came out in strength. Hi Michelle!

Thank God for our OECTA activists! It was great to march together, to mingle, laugh, share ideas and talk. Still we paled in comparison to the throngs of OSSTF, ETFO and CUPE members and their leaders who had all ready begun to mobilize their teachers almost a year ago when the first dark political clouds began to appear over the MOE. OECTA mobilization? Bah. We are a core group and we finally had a chance to get together, rather than all be all operating separately and in the dark with little or no information from the top. From small seeds great trees can spread out and grow. This has not happened at OECTA yet, but at least we made a start this weekend. And that my dear friends is why I believe you didn't see many of us there.

Any political protest event, successful or not, is a victory in at least taking a small step forward towards change. Where will OECTA be able to go from here under our current leadership and as we seemly continue to cower before the Liberals? God only knows but let's keep the faith now that we have finally been able to take this small step.



Coming: Reaction to OECTA at the protests
Also: News links for the protest and the OLP convention

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good summary David. I saw quite a few OECTA members at the rally. Present were groups of members from Algonquin-Lakeshore, Sudbury Elementary, York, TECT/TSU, Dufferin-Peel Elementary/Secondary, Halton Elementary/Secondary, Niagara Elementary/Secondary, Windsor Elementary/Secondary, Waterloo, Huron-Perth Elementary, Bruce-Grey Elementary/Secondary, Durham Secondary, all OTF Governors, most Provincial Exec members. I am also sure I have missed mentioning a few people.

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