Opening Statement



Wednesday, 6 March 2013

OECTA Quo Vadis?/ Where Are We Going?!?

Today's regular updated all affiliate news links at: Teacher Digest

Mr. John Cafferky has been a regular contributor to my blog since the July 5th MOU. [see links at bottom] He contributes his latest analysis of the member's OLRB challenge + the head office's response, prior to the motions, debates + Provincial Executive Election at this weekend's OECTA AGM 2013. We thank him for his sharing his point of view:



On July 5, 2012, OECTA’s Executive signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the provincial government on conditions of employment traditionally negotiated in local collective agreements. OECTA agreed that all local collective agreements must include the terms of the MoU irrespective of the wishes of the local members. In response, seven Toronto high school teachers challenged OECTA at the Labour Relations Board of Ontario (OLRB)—we sought the dignity and the right to ratify our contracts. OECTA Head Office fielded the formidable legal team of Paul Cavalluzzo and Bernard Hanson, aided by General Secretary Marshal Jarvis, a team dedicated to persuading the OLRB not to grant us a right to vote on our contract.

A perverse spirit has taken hold of Head Office, and their alienation from the classroom teacher could not be better highlighted than by the lawyers’ claim at the hearing that OECTA enjoyed “rights” under the hated Bill 115. In the first day of the hearing, Head Office’s lawyers claimed their MoU enjoyed the full protection of Bill 115. On the second day of the hearing, Bill 115 having been repealed, Mr. Cavalluzzo argued “their rights” under Bill 115 persisted even after the wretched legislation was repealed.[1] I have no objection to being slammed against the boards—taking a complaint to the OLRB is not for the sensitive soul—but I consider this argument a foul. It was pure provocation for a Catholic Teachers Union to claim rights under a piece of legislation universally despised by teachers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. To compound the injury, the Provincial Executive has voted and publicly recorded its disapproval of Bill 115. Native Americans use the phrase “forked tongue” to describe Head Office’s behaviour: The Executive passes a motion condemning Bill 115—mere platitudes for the serfs, while the association’s lawyers demand that the OLRB recognize the persistence of rights they once enjoyed under Bill 115. Head Office’s behaviour is offensively hypocritical and flagrantly dishonest.

Catholic members will recall the adage “pride goes before the fall”, and Head Office has accumulated a surfeit of pride and arrogance. At the OLRB Mr. Cavalluzzo contemptuously mocked and taunted us with the challenge that if we did not like the democratic process in OECTA then “throw the bums out” in March. I was surprised that at the November hearing Mr. Cavalluzzo deemed President O’Dwyer unchallengeable in March. I was far more surprised by the lack of maturity in his remark: Like any teacher I have all too often seen this attitude in adolescent students but I have encountered it rarely, if ever, in adults. When the hierarchy of any organization views the concerns of its members as no more than unrest among the serfs, the time for change has not only come but is long overdue.



Domine quo vadis?

Multiple and many criticisms of the MoU have led President O’Dwyer to claim:

Furthermore, the 2012 provincial negotiations followed the exact same process used in both the 2004 and 2008 rounds of negotiations. This process was established by the PE [Provincial Executive] and the COP [Council of Presidents] and was again endorsed by the COP in preparation for each round of provincial negotiations, including this one. Not a single complaint was filed against this process in either the 2004 or 2008 negotiations, nor was any complaint raised when this process was endorsed in 2011.[2]


Our president defends the process while we object to the product. The 2008 agreement permitted the local members to accept or reject the terms of the provincial agreement, while the 2012 MoU does not. The difference is not in degree but in kind—imposing the terms of the local collective agreement is a novel deviation. Although Head Office has refused to acknowledge this difference, the Council of Presidents instituted a Task Force to identify legislative changes that would prevent a recurrence of the MoU. The unifying thread of the Task Force recommendations is democratization. How extraordinary that one body of our association has reacted to the MoU with an urgent initiative to democratize the process, compelling the authors of the MoU at Head Office to publicly agree on the need for reform. However, if Head Office sincerely agrees on the need for reform, why did they exploit the inadequacy of our By-Laws and create the crisis by signing a binding MoU? When all is said and done, the authors of the MoU knew that they were imposing contractual terms on the local units. It is rich that some of those same authors now claim to champion reform. 

At the OLRB hearing, Head Office forcefully demonstrated they had no intention of admitting error of any kind. The OECTA team of Cavalluzzo and Hanson dazzled—dare one say intimidated—Mr. Fishbein, the chairman of the OLRB. Although the MoU deals with material almost exclusively settled in collective bargaining, the Head Office team managed to persuade Mr. Fishbein that the MoU was not collective bargaining. I was surprised by this tactic because our president has published three communications[3] on the subject  in which he freely uses the following language: “our provincial bargaining team”;  “negotiations”; “negotiated settlements”; non-monetary gains”; “a fair and reasonable agreement”; “round of negotiations”;”bargaining table”;”provincial negotiations”;”duration of this agreement”. Union member will recognize in these quotes the language of collective bargaining. Why would Head Office not admit they had engaged in provincial bargaining with the government, bargaining that through their MoU dictated the terms of our contract?  Instead, they convinced the chairman that OECTA sat at the table only in the capacity of a stakeholder in education, much as OECTA might consult the government on the Education Act[4]. However, unions do not appoint bargaining teams and have rounds of negotiations when they “consult” the government.

At the OLRB the critical argument hinged on the official capacity in which OECTA participated in the Provincial Discussion Table (PDT). To clinch their argument, The Head Office team denied that OECTA sat at the table as the exclusive bargaining agent for teachers in the Separate system. Again, one is stuck forcibly by a lack of candour. Mr. O’Dwyer states in TSU Highlights:

As per the Ontario Labour Relation Act, the OECTA Provincial Executive is the bargaining agent. As such, the PE sought endorsement of the COP to engage in the 2011-2012 PDT process on December 14, 2011. A bargaining team appointed consistent with the December 14, 2011 resolutions represented OECTA in these negotiations.[5]

From the above statement of President O’Dwyer (who outranks Mr. Cavalluzzo in OECTA) there is no disputing that OECTA participated in the PDT in its capacity as the sole bargaining agent for the separate system teachers. Why would Head Office deny at the OLRB what the president has elsewhere freely stated? I readily concede the technical excellence of OECTA’s lawyering, not having any representation ourselves we had to bear the full brunt of it, but excellence in lawyering should not churn truth into collateral damage—especially for the leaders of a Catholic association.

What has happened to the fiery idealism of yesterday’s OECTA—my beautiful OECTA?  I have deep concerns that the natural justice of asking for the right to ratify our contract did not resonate at Head Office, and for that matter, it did not resonate with many local unit officers who have noisily advocated for social justice abroad but seem blind and paralyzed at home. To me, justice knows no boundaries. Denying us the right to ratify our contracts undermines the internal cohesion of our association, and OECTA‘s strength derives directly from the commitment of our members. It is no accident that the present Head Office administration broke ranks and solidarity with the other teacher affiliates, because they have already broken ranks with OECTA’s proud tradition of democracy and local autonomy, and in a real sense their antidemocratic behaviour has broken ranks with their own members.



I place a premium on solidarity, especially after the 2008 financial meltdown led to private corporations worldwide transferring massive private losses onto the public ledger. Because the governments cannot absorb the private losses, the financial sector has launched a ferocious campaign against the public sector and public sector unions. I know one thing for certain: public sector unions did not blow the system up in 2008—private banks and insurance companies and hedge funds did that. Why does the public service have to bear the burden of gambling losses at private banks? A union such as ours cannot go head-to-head financially with a major bank, but we can put more boots on the ground, and that takes solidarity writ large. For the sake of the future generations, we need to nurture our boots on the ground (even cuddle them), to renounce the jaded indifferent opportunism at Head Office, and revitalize our beautiful association with genuine solidarity and a unified determination to fight for justice and the common good. Viva OECTA!     



[1]Ontario Labour Relations Board, File # 1946-12-U; 2014-12-U; 2305-12-U; 2409-12-U, February 26, 2013, Page  9&10
[2] OECTA Presidents Response on MoU: http://www.tsuoecta.org/newsletter.php, Internet, First page
[3] OECTA Presidents Response on MoU: http://www.tsuoecta.org/newsletter.php, O’Dwyer 5 July, 2012 to members, O’Dwyer 6 September 2012 to members.
[4] Ontario Labour Relations Board, File # 1946-12-U; 2014-12-U; 2305-12-U; 2409-12-U, February 26, 2013, Page  9&10
[5]OECTA Presidents Response on MoU, //tsuoecta.org/newsletter.php

Here are links to John's letters to President O'Dwyer. Kevin's letters can be found there too:

None Dare Call It Betrayal 2 @ December Exchange

None Dare Call It Betrayal 1 @ John's 1st Letter


COMMENT LINK BELOW:

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dearest OECTA. You are governed by Liberals who behave as Liberals do. There is not law or legal procedure that they will not utilize, nor is there a form of doublespeak that they will fail to employ in pursuit of their agenda. Power. Stop voting for Liberals and start over. Hudak cannot win. Just look at him. Give the NDP a try. With your help they can win and perhaps you can restore your honour. I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a beautiful blog once again John! Our union needs regular input/participation from members on most matters and we need an OECTA Ombudsman to restore transparency, democracy and accountability to every OECTA member. We need a new leadership 100% dedicated to putting members first! We need to redraw the voting structure of OECTA-one member-one vote!

Anonymous said...

David
You need to fix the sources above as they did not come out right! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

There do seem to be a lot of crooks out there. The labour law is not even the law and can be broken with impunity and without fear of consequences. There are no checks and balances! Are we descending into dictatorships?

David Chiarelli said...

Most regretfully, we are going to have to scroll down to the footnotes at the bottom of John's blog. I will have to look into this. You are right, the
numbers don't seem to work on the blogspot .... ?!?

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