Shortly after the OSSTF’s most recent contract ratification announcement, I had a conversation with one of the federation’s negotiators. I was bemoaning the state of the contract while said negotiator was explaining that this deal will work for us because this contract establishes a better starting point (over Bill 115’s imposed contract) for the next round of negotiations in 2014. I was troubled by this statement. I seem to recall our starting point for negotiations being significantly awesome prior to this contract and we managed to lose a tonne. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why the federation thinks the government will negotiate in good faith next time.
This doesn’t even consider the fact that our new deal has pushed the Hudakians so far right that they are talking about setting the labour movement back to pre-industrialization or that the pension has abandoned guaranteed Cost Of Living Adjustments.
Don't give up the fight!
The Argentines, who can still recall the Falkland Islands, now scoff with disdain and shake their collective heads at the High School teachers of Ontario because we were routed. Now I am not really one for war metaphors, because war is way more tragic than just about anything to which it could be compared. However, the OSSTF, in its hubris, will point to a couple of casualties on the other side of no man’s land. Bragging about taking down the Premier and Education Minister rings hollow.
The Government of Ontario no longer cares about negotiating and they frankly aren’t all that interested in occupying the moral high ground of doing what’s best for education or for its work force. Depending on the direction of the political wind, they either seek to buy teachers’ votes by playing nice or they seek to win the rest of the electorate by vilifying teachers and unions in general. Every round of negotiations for at least the past 25 years falls into one of these two categories. Heck, D. Mac even chose to go with four year contracts in the education sector, making negotiations work for the election cycle (am I the only one who thinks the Liberals wanted a two year deal in this round so they could decide whether to buy us or vilify us before the next election - assuming they had won that much drooled over minority by taking Conservative Kit-Wat’s by-election?).
One of my frustrations over the years has been when I hear teachers and/or union leaders say that we as a collective cannot beat the government’s PR/Media machine. That is completely baffling to me, the government is not very good at managing the message (cite your favourite of many examples over the past 18 months). A cadre of 10 to 15 political Dr. Frankensteins sitting around Mowat Block cannot possibly overwhelm an army of historians, scientists, literature majors, artists, mathematicians, athletes, computer experts, et al. And we have to own that and walk, nay, we have to strut into negotiations like we know it.
The fact that the voting public respects politicians’ statements about education more than the opinions of educators is a problem of immeasurable significance. And the government knows this. Collectively, teachers are seen as a group of slacker summer-loving self-interested pseudo professionals. Individually, teachers are heroes. This inconsistency needs to be fixed. We need to be seen as defenders of students and of education. No government of any political stripe in Finland would ever dare trade in bashing teachers, we need to learn from the teachers who have won the respect of their nations (especially in light of Ontario being the highest achieving educational jurisdiction in the English speaking world).
Focus on the issues that matter.
The government gave the public a simple narrative about entitled teachers living the privileged life and taking the summer off. The OSSTF gave the public an obscure narrative about freedom of assembly and labour law. We should have been focusing on the government’s move to an American style education system and its attack on the middle class. (Is there a more middle class profession than teaching?) And despite the naysayers we can win the public relations battle. We have to win. The stakes are too high, and education matters too much.
[Ed 1: Read Rob's earlier guest blog on the OSSTF MOU, "A Yes Vote is Complete Surrender!" @ Vote No! ]
[Ed 2: Would you like to write a guest blog? Contact me via my gmail address at the top right of this site!]