Opening Statement



Tuesday, 5 February 2013

OECTA MOU OLRB Hearing [02 05 13]


I wish I had better news! The OECTA [Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association] OLRB [Ontario Labour Relations Board] hearing was again tied down today with frustrating legal questions over whether the board could rule on the complaints against OECTA Provincial. As a result, there still wasn't any serious discussion or focus on the "duty to represent" complaints from it's angry members



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On one side of the conference room table sat the four local OECTA unit Presidents and the Metro 7 teacher member complainants, ready to challenge OECTA Provincial's ratification of the controversial MOU [Memo of Understanding] last July 5th. On the other side sat OECTA Provincial's legal team and the secretary general with more arguments for why the hearing still should not proceed, even though Bill 115 has been repealed. 

The OECTA members' hopes had been high. Last November OECTA Provincial had evoked Bill 115 against its own members to argue that any complaints concerning the MOU were not within the jurisdiction of the OLRB. Then last month the provincial government repealed the bill. Could our members now at least have their concerns about the ratification process finally be heard by the OLRB?

The local Presidents attended with two lawyers in a consolidated case created by the need to cut costs. OECTA Provincial refuses to provide them with legal aid from our membership dues.

The local unit complainants are: OECTA  Halton [File: 1946-12-U], Ottawa [2409-12-U] Sudbury Elementary [2305-12-U],York [2409-12-U] and the Metro 7 [2014-4-12-U] a group of concerned Catholic secondary school teachers from Toronto.

Oddly enough, OECTA Provincial executive hadn't any problems with approving the legal costs for their defence team to return today, paid for with the same membership dues our local members were denied. Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, and Counsel for the Respondent Bernard A Hanson accompanied OECTA General Secretary Marshall Jarvis to the hearing.

Today was a true David verses Goliath struggle between the cash strapped OECTA teachers who believed they should have been allowed to vote on whether or not to accept the controversial MOU, and the formidable OECTA Provincial giant which had unilaterally agreed to it, and was now once again arguing to Chairman of the Board Bernard Fishbein that the complainants case could not be heard by the OLRB with or without Bill 115.

Chairman Fishbein patiently listened to the legal arguments. OECTA Provincial argued that the OECTA MOU is not in fact a collective agreement. Therefore Section 74 of the OLRA [Ontario Labour Relations Act] applying to their duty of representation to the membership does not apply. It is still apparently not within the jurisdiction of the OLRB to hear the members complaintsAs far as OECTA Provincial seemed to be concerned the PDT [Provincial Discussion Table] talks that resulted in the OECTA MOU were a political and not a collective bargaining process. 

Duty to representation, it was pointed out, usually applies to union cases involving collective bargaining agreements between an employer and employees. It was the school board trustees who were the employer at the provincial discussion table where the MOU agreements was signed. How then could Section 74 apply to OECTA Provincial for allegedly not representing it's members properly if these were not Collective Bargaining talks with an employer but rather a political agreement between OECTA and the Ministry of Education?

OECTA Sudbury's lawyer countered that the PDT talks are collective agreement talks between the government paymaster and the teacher unions. The terms that are agreed upon are binding on any local collective bargaining agreement between the employers and teachers, and in fact are responsible for determining most of the issues on the bargaining table. The OECTA local units wished to complain that OECTA Provincial had not followed Section 74, nor in a long list of cases the association's own bylaws and policies by not allowing a general membership vote. 

A verdict on whether the OLRB can proceed to hear the complaints remains in limbo as both parties wait upon what would seem to be a very tough decision for Chairman Fishbein. Does he now agree that the PDT talks constitute collective bargaining, or do they not? Either way, in the gray overcast world of teacher union and provincial negotiations, he is stuck deciding upon what could be a precedent setting case, before our angry members' Section 74 complaints can still be heard. Our teachers dismay was quit palpable as we left the hearing. The provincial team did not come over for the customary greetings and handshakes one usually associates with a union that is working hard for and not against it's own members. One senses that victorious or not, OECTA Provincial is indeed badly out of touch with it's own membership while the anger continues to grow.

I am awaiting the teacher minutes to more carefully explain the technicalities of the case, but I think this is it in a basic nutshell, no pun intended.

COMMENT BELOW:

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

David
The hearing today was to decide if OECTA's motion to dismiss the 4 OECTA units' and M7's complaints was going to work or not.Since their entire defence (Bill 115) has been repealed and their arguments were weak at best today, I would not be too sure of the outcome. Mr.Fishbein is not challenged and can read- he can tell if an MOU is in effect a contract or a settlement and whether it involved collective bargaining or not. I am going to assume he is honest and decent and will enforce Labour Relations Law as this is clearly under his jurisdiction. All roadblocks real or artificial have been removed!

Anonymous said...

The best outcome on this OLRB complaint would be a negotiated settlement between the complainants and OECTA Provincial.

Anonymous said...

"As far as OECTA Provincial seemed to be concerned the PDT [Provincial Discussion Table] talks that resulted in the OECTA MOU were a political and not a collective bargaining process."

If the above is in fact Provincial's stance, I have a few questions:

If the PDT talks were really a 'political process', why then did OECTA publish on its website a series of 'Collective Bargaining Updates' during the PDT talks? As a member, is it unreasonable to assume that 'collective bargaining' is taking place when you receive a series of bulletins titled 'Collective Bargaining Updates'?

Anonymous said...

When this farce is over the new president needs to clean house. Starting with Marshall. His fingerprints are all over this nightmare. He and Kevin will probably end up playing golf with Dalton. Keep the lawyers though they seem to be pretty competent!

Anonymous said...

The big point to remember here is that the OECTA Provincial Executive can not be both bargaining agent and the ratification agent for a MOU/Collective Agreement. This is totally unheard of in the field of labour relations!A CA has to be bargained by the agent and then it must go to all the union members for ratification! This is the law!!!! A huge step has been ignored by Provincial making a deal which does not legally bind us since it was never ratified!

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