I am taking an unusual step here today which hasn't been done for a few years on my site. A readers letter is being posted as a blog. Here's my standard disclaimer: this is not an official ETFO communique but rather a readers opinion. It is written in response to the COP Letter from Sept 28. My commentary follows and I'm sure we all look forward to reading and considering your Comments for discussion purposes. The reader writes:
This is from my perspective as an ETFO member.
If somebody with gumption like Richard Brock had been OECTA's president (or general secretary) last year, the concession bargaining OECTA Provincial decided to engage in would never had occurred. With that concession bargaining, OECTA effectively destroyed the ability of the other teacher unions to get through this round of bargaining unscathed. OECTA's provincial exec members also gutted THEIR OWN MEMBERS' contracts and told members it was a GOOD THING, which we on the outside still can't understand.
We at ETFO have not forgotten OECTA PE's betrayal. We also haven't forgotten that a majority of your provincial executive continues to think that the OECTA MOU was a great idea, and so we are primed for the real possibility that OECTA PE will once again stick yet another shiv in the backs of the affiliates in the upcoming round of bargaining and engage in further concession bargaining. As far as I am concerned, and as far as every other ETFO member I know is concerned, the decision to remove Mr. Brock from office for publicly speaking truth to power only confirms that the following expression: "Meet the new OECTA PE; same as the old OECTA PE."
If I was an OECTA member, I'd set up an email list with the emails of all your politicians (i.e., provincial executive members and local presidents) and write them frequently to say that I expect them to not engage in concession bargaining this next round and at least pretend to cooperate with their union partners. My apologies for sounding so angry. I appreciate all the OECTA members who came out to rallies and provided so much support last year. OECTA members are fabulous, sensible and brave people; but the politicians seem to be cut from a different cloth.
Regretfully, the writers comments are quite understandable. They pose a very real question that is the elephant in the room. Is OECTA to be trusted as the different teacher affiliates begin new PDT talks collectively with the Provincial Government again this year?
It's an understatement to say that last year's PDT talks didn't go well. The government remained intransigent for the most part, demanding concessions that resulted in contract stripping of the collective agreements. OECTA PE's July 5th decision to break ranks with the other affiliates, ETFO, OSSTF and AEFO by unilaterally ratifying an MOU agreement which included major concessions without a membership vote was quite a compromising surprise and shock for both members and non members alike. It didn't exactly inspire much trust either inside or outside OECTA.
However, I am hesitant to blame everything that followed strictly on OECTA, although it was a major blow. Perhaps the same concerns should be addressed to the PEs' of all the teacher unions who sooner or later followed suit giving many reasons for why they thought their own MOU terms should be ratified by the membership?
We know, even from reading the reactions here on my blogsite, that many teachers from all the affiliates felt betrayed by their union leaders actions. I would suggest each affiliate should also have a reckoning with their PE's demanding that there won't be any more concession bargaining this year.
Unfortunately for the OECTA members there was a further surprise this summer that does not inspire confidence nor suggest OECTA is entering into the talks undivided among themselves. You can tell how split many are over the OECTA Discipline Panels dismissal of Halton Elementary president + leading OECTA MOU dissident Richard Brock from the letters. That OECTA PE claims that there is nothing it can do because if it's by-laws and Constitution remains very unsettling too.
I have often heard OECTA stories that claim behind the scenes all the leaders are now okay with what happened last year, on a go forward basis. I myself find that very hard to believe for the reasons succinctly described by the ETFO member above. Furthermore I have to wonder if there is a major disconnect between what each of the leaders says about the status quo, and what the grass root members actually feel. Many of last years agreed upon terms went against the most basic of union principles regardless of whatever reasons might be given. Maybe they are cut off in how they see the general mood, and believe their own hype? These are all very scary thoughts indeed!
Rather than ignore the issue hoping that it will go away, or by claiming it's of a sensitive nature that's best left unmentioned so as not to undermine this years PDT process, I would argue the opposite. These are very important issues that crucially need to be voiced, addressed and discussed rather than ignore at your own peril.
So, dear readers: what do you think? You can use the COMMENT link below.
Dare to be different!