Opening Statement



Friday, 19 July 2013

Among Presidents: Buchanans OSSTF Letter!



Putting the pieces back together again ...

July 27 UPDATE: Change.org needs member signatures for a petition asking President Paul Elliot to publicly disassociate OSSTF from Past President  Ken Coran's OLP by-election run in London West. So far mum's been the word from on high. See @ Indie OSSTF Petition

Read the blog to learn more on why the petition is considered so important:

Past OSSTF President Malcolm Buchanan has written a letter to incoming OSST President Paul Elliot advising him of the necessity for OSSTF to publicly distance itself from former OSSTF President and OLP [Ontario Liberal Party] candidate in London West: Ken Coran. He believes it is essential for the teacher unions integrity that OSSTF maintain it's progressive credentials. OSSTF can't be seen as being complicit in any self serving endeavour be it through the actions of the union presidency or the Ontario Liberal Party. Such actions run contrary to union principles including democracy, solidarity and collective bargaining rights. Here is the text of Malcolm Buchanan's letter to President Paul Elliot:

July 11, 2013

Dear Brother Paul,

Congratulations on your election to the position of President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation [OSSTF].

As President you will be confronted with many challenges.

Unfortunately, Ken Coran has presented you with a major problem that may define your presidency. If you wish to maintain the support and integrity of the OSSTF membership and the trade union movement you and members of the provincial executive must publicly distance yourselves from Ken’s misguided quest to become a Liberal MPP for the riding of London West.

Ken has every right to seek elected office as a Liberal MPP. However, his decision has created serious doubts in many current and retired OSSTF members minds as to his loyalty to Federation positions, policies and principles, especially the principles of free collective bargaining and democratic rights of members.

If the Federation does not publicly distance itself from Ken and the Liberal Government, the Federation will be viewed as being complicit in his self-serving endeavours. The optics for the Federation are terrible given the Federations and members opposition to Bill 115. Ken has stated that he was asked by Premier Wynne to accept the nomination in London West on behalf of the Ontario Liberal Party and that this is a ‘new’ Liberal Government. Remember, Kathleen Wynne is on record as strongly supporting Bill 115. She is also on record as saying that public sector compensation increases for the foreseeable future will be limited to no more than 1% if that.

What is also problematic is that Ken, while still President, endorsed the candidacy of the NDP candidate for London West by-election. This has further undermined Ken’s credibility.

I have been informed that many OSSTF members in the London area are dismayed by Ken’s decision to seek elected office as a Liberal MPP given the Federations opposition to Bill 115. Many have volunteered to work for the NDP candidate.

OSSTF has a proud history of being a progressive union. It has been supportive of the OFL and CLC campaigns to protect the democratic and collective bargaining rights for all workers. OSSTF has been the champion for building and maintaining a strong public school system.

This proud record is on the line.

It is essential that the Federation publicly states that it does not support Ken Coran’s campaign and will encourage OSSTF members not to support him.

Good luck in your Presidency.

Fraternally,

Malcolm Buchanan/
OSSTF Life Member

COMMENTARY:

2013-2014 will be a critical year for collective bargaining as the teacher affiliates meet with the Liberal MOE to negotiate our next contracts. There should be some new legislature outlining the procedures in the fall. The OLP minority government will also be in for the political fight of it's life.

In the last round of PDT [Provincial Discussion Table] talks the OLP showed blatant disregard for our teacher union support and principles through contract stripping. Also for our democratic rights through the oppressive Bill 115 legislation to force the odious MOU [Memo of Understanding] on our teacher unions. We cannot allow them to take our support for granted any more.

As the recent guest bloggers here on my site have explained in detail, it is time for a major review of our previous union political strategies, especially considering the strong possibility of another provincial election within the next year. It is interesting to note that the provincial executives have not committed any of the affiliates to take sides in the current by-elections. Why would they at this point in time? The outcomes will not significantly change the current balance of power at Queens Park.

In OECTA's case it has not been past practice to get involved in by-elections, the exception being in it's NDP support during last summers Kitchener by-election. I am not aware of the other affiliates past record, but all three, OECTA, OSSTF and ETFO, would all seemingly be wise to sit the by-elections out until a sound new strategy can be developed and hopefully agreed upon by all, if we are to move forward as a united teacher front.

As you know, last year was not a good one for OECTA or OSSTF. I cannot speak for ETFO. In effect the affiliates agreed under duress to contract stripping. There are deep divides within and between the affiliates as a result. I'm quite sure there is no love lost between Mr. Buchanan and many OSSTF members with OECTA. However I would suggest now is not the time for any divisive infighting between any of the affiliates if we wish to regain any momentum and credibility as a united teacher front.

Fortunately both OECTA and OSSTF now have had a change in leadership. It is promising in that it provides the opportunity for a fresh start, beginning with each getting their own houses in order. Mr. Buchanan has provided OSSTF with a plan to consider which would seem to make sense to me. The Buchanan letter is posted on the REWT [Rank + File Education Workers of Toronto] Facebook " Class Struggles" page where you can find a lot of member views and input from a progressive OSSTF perspective @ here.

I have an independent all affiliate teacher blogsite. I gladly post OSSTF + ETFO materials, guest blogs, and readers comments, although I myself am a retired dissident OECTA member, for which I can perhaps provide better insight. Today I had the pleasure of an informal lunch visit with incoming OECTA President James Ryan at the provincial offices here in Toronto. It was clear that he and the 2013 - 14 OECTA executive have landed with both feet running. I doubt James will be getting much holiday time this year.

I will be providing an interview with James for our erudition on this site around the time school resumes. For now suffice to say I know he is well aware of and committed to working towards re-establishing affiliate unity. I am optimistic that we will see OECTA take a fresh more hard line approach to next years PDT talks too. Of course a president is not alone in making a lot of these decisions. Still I trust President Ryan  knowing he has a clear focus and excellent conciliatory team approach in working with everyone to see what can be done.

In short both OSSTF and OECTA have a chance to do some basic housekeeping from within and the next round of PDT to consider once the new procedures are introduced, probably in the fall. From there it will be a very interesting and challenging year of negotiations ahead. I look forward to continuing to provide coverage here on my site.

One would be foolish to just assume that we that will have a better go of it. The change of leadership does however provide us with an opportunity for change which hopefully neither affiliate will waste. For our part, as grass root members I look forward to our collective ongoing discussion, views and coverage of what is to be done. We form a relatively small but progressive, stalwart and well read if not dissident vanguard. We will need to be diligent, informed and ready to provide appropriate support and input as the teacher union movement tries to move forward together again next year.

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