Last year was tough for teachers! Like many of the old guard, I believed and worked hard to protect our teacher unions during the Harris Years. Some of you will remember the era well. The rest will hopefully never have it thrust upon you. It's important that we are all here. The next big battle will be for a new guard to fight, win or lose. It's important that we are able to organize and talk. Share info, discuss, debate and so on. The teacher movement could be headed for big political trouble in 2014.
The July 5 2012 OECTA Provincial MOU betrayed union solidarity with our ETFO and OSSTF brothers + sisters. Through concession bargaining it allowed the Ontario government to start stripping the contracts we had fought so hard for over the years. Members were forced to helplessly watch while OECTA sold out it's union heart and soul without even a member ratification vote.
Implementation of the OECTA MOU during 2013 made it's further shortcomings quite clear. The MOU didn't protect the different local unit's equally. That became apparent through the differences in the provincially "negotiated" terms for lost sick days, gratuities, + the LTD plan. Some units have been protected and even done well. Others not.
There has been little if any official public discussion or acknowledgement of the discrepancies. Some units might be glad for the new provincial LTD plan. Not OECTA TSU and TECT though. Their excellent LTD plan and assets, despite a temporary reprieve, will be taken away and replaced with the much inferior new one in 2014. These are big units but not favoured ones it seems. There's no nice way to put it. They are getting screwed.
The losses were a lot harder for the smaller units whom didn't seem to count when the terms of the MOU were struck either. Consider OECTA Halton Elementary. They couldn't find out what if any remuneration would be provided for the death benefit they lost. It had been locally negotiated years ago instead of a pension gratuity. It too was cut on the MOU chopping block. Kaput! Gone like that!
It is particularly foul that OECTA turned it's back on and abandoned many of the smaller units who can't possibly stick up for themselves. That isn't the OECTA we fought to protect and build. It's not what OECTA was supposed to be about!
Throughout 2013, like in 2012, OECTA Provincial remained conspicuous through their silence and indifference. It turned upon members and trampled even their most basic union rights when anybody complained. Last winter OECTA Provincial used Bill 115 to stop the OLRB from hearing a joint MOU compliant. Even more odious, the legal cost for that was paid for with the OECTA membership fees. Next followed the bullying. Examples were made to show what could happen to those who further continued to fight or publicly disagree with the MOU.
Last summer while we were on summer holidays, one of the very vocal OLRB complainants, Halton Elementary President Richard Brock, was stripped of elected office. All his union privileges and rights were removed. These heinous acts were committed by an "appointed" OECTA Discipline Panel. They were carried out in stealth under the cover of the summer holidays just like the MOU, then presented as a fait accompli. The procedures followed were dubious at best.
OECTA Code of Silence
President Richard Brock is well known within OECTA. He's a gunslinger who shoots straight from the hip. He won't just do as he is told. He asks questions. He wants answers. That was fine when OECTA was in danger of being crushed under Premier Mike Harris' boot. Move forward now to August 2012. Richard was first to cross the bottom line. He broke the OETCA Code of silence by publicly questioning and speaking out against the MOU. Answers weren't forthcoming and almost everybody else was keeping hush. Richard obviously wasn't being a very good Catholic boy in OECTA Provincials eyes.
President Brock wanted to know how the MOU would effect his members death benefit. It was his elected duty. He was following the directions of the local unit executive. I should think that is what an effective, responsible President would do.
Unfortunately there might as well have been a big target painted on his back. Richard has become the number one example of what can happen if one dares challenge the OECTA Provincial MOU.
Of course OECTA is a union, and unions have a Constitution and By-laws created under the authority of a AGM membership assembly. With both the MOU and the Discipline Panel, OECTA Provincial played very loosely with the associations rules. It hired lawyers to find legal loopholes allowing it to do many surprising things! Inevitably though it also woke up a sleeping giant in so overstepping its bounds.
After Richard's story leaked out this fall, many OECTA members finally began waking up and asking a lot of questions. That this didn't happen right after the MOU was of course quite a shock. However with OECTA one should appreciate whatever miracles we get. It would seem there's nothing like martyrdom or a good Crucifixion to get everybody going! Poor Richard! Anyway, the OECTA membership is now finally wondering just what the hell is going on. OECTA Provincials methods, if we can call them that, are just too too bizarre and weird to inspire much confidence. First an unratified MOU? Now elected Presidents who complain about the bad deal are being fired? Who would trust or want to be represented by a union that acts like that?
Teacher union free speech?
Of course, the questions remain unanswered. There was some sort of vague third party legal report, whatever that entails, promised to COP. The December deadline for it has come and gone.
It's unclear who's even in charge at the OECTA Provincial offices anymore. The Brock debacle has become a hot potato that nobody seems to want to get stuck with, that's for sure! Entering 2014, one must certainly wonder if, from an administrative and procedural perspective, OECTA Provincial has become like the emperor who has no clothes! OECTA can't justify not reinstating President Richard Brock now. The whole boon doogle is just too ridiculous. The Discipline Panel and the way it went about business is just plain ludicrous. The punishment lacks any reasonable sense of proportion to the trumped up charges that were made. The so called "Discipline Panel" policy and procedures should be properly handed over to the OECTA Spring AGM. It can authoritatively examine, fix up and deal with the problems. A fair, just and transparent decision over the fate of President Brock can be made then. Not by a kangaroo court as is now the case.
Instead OECTA Provincial indulges in skull duggery. Like at last winters MOU OLRB hearing, members dues are again being wasted on finding legal loopholes to save OECTA Provincial's sorry ass. As you might guess Richard is up against a stubborn, obstinate wall. He has no choice now but to seek answers and redress in civil court. In case you didn't know there has been a new development. He is now being asked by OECTA to prove that they are his employer for Christ's sake! That means he needs to privately match the membership dollars OECTA Provincial has spent on legal costs to come up with this. Otherwise his case is prevented from proceeding in court. That's pretty pathetic coming from a once great teachers union. Worse, Richard wasn't told what's up until the last minute before Christmas holidays. Talk about adding insult to injury and rubbing it in hard!
To be blunt, these OECTA boondoggles are futile and arrogant. Provincial can't continue to just keep trying to pull the wool over every ones' eyes or bully them into submission.
Without strong principles and a moral centre, OECTA is at best on shaky grounds. How can such a teacher union claim to represent its members best interests anymore without getting laughed out of the room?
To be even more blunt one might well argue that over the last year we have witnessed a defacto OECTA Coup de Etat up at the OECTA Provincial offices. The real authority in OECTA should be exercised and determined solely by the OECTA AGM. It is how the membership provides direction and defines the unions best interests. Instead we have very dubious committees making these decisions while the provincial executive claims its hand are tied and it can't do anything. Whatever happened to the principle of an elected provincial executive carrying out the decisions that the AGM members are supposed to make?!? The unions Constitution and by-laws seem to be nothing but a joke. And to take it one step further, who is authorizing and instructing the big buck legal teams that are chewing up the membership dues coming up with ways to stick it to anybody who says boo?
Here's another OECTA problem deserving of our attention in 2014. God only knows what deal might've been struck with the Ontario Liberal Party in exchange for signing off on such a bad deal as the MOU! OECTA broke solidarity with ETFO and OSSTF and are an embarrassment to the union movement. It is still going to great lengths trying to crush any resistance within OECTA to the MOU. When it comes to Richard, Provincial won't even answer all the excellent questions that are being asked. What could they have been offered in exchange for all this blatant Liberal butt kissing? They better be enjoying their 12 pieces of OLP silver now at OECTA Provincial! Wait until everybody finds out if there is a reward come election time. When is that? Oh yeah, this spring?!? There's going to be lots of angry people across the province who will enjoy the last laugh with that if the Liberals don't win big time. That is even if OECTA can trust the Liberals after all they've done! Duh!
Sooner or later the OECTA coup de etat puppet meisters and their rogue gang of yahoo's will discover that they are only fooling themselves. They are no better than the self serving Catholic school boards and government who they are paid to protect the members from. Maybe they don't care anymore? Without a strong principled union the card house can only collapse from within. Forget about all those other mad dogs baying for OECTA's sorry Catholic asses. Nobody at OECTA is going to be any better off for their folly!
I would like to also address our OSSTF and ETFO colleagues in my New Years message of sorts here! This is an all affiliate blogsite. It was quite actively so last year up until September. Since then my OECTA coverage has usually had to dull that wider focus. Regretfully I can't write knowledgeably about your problems on my own, not having ever been an insider and all. My offer stands to publish any guest blogs you want to send me. Also know I will again report on your situation more and provide the news links like in 2012-13, once the 2014 provincial contract talks get going in earnest.
Meanwhile brothers and sisters, note what's happened at OECTA. With all due respect, don't doubt the same shit storm could happen within your union too. Maybe it's all ready underway. Quite frankly, after all the reasons, excuses, finger pointing and posturing of a year ago, OSSTF and ETFO along with the CUPE leadership also recommended that you surrender to the OLP's demands for concession bargaining. What kind of unions do this?!? The teacher unions recommended you let the OLP start stripping your contracts?!? Now the "no concession" line in the sand has been moved back everywhere.
Figure the rest out for yourself. You can blame OECTA. That sure didn't help! But maybe OECTA just leapt first at the crummy deals being offered? Let's face it. It's not beyond any of them. They have all done something similar during negotiations or strikes at one time or another. You better monitor your unions activity very carefully so that you don't end up getting dumped on even worse this year. Don't be fooled by fine words or empty promises. It's a crock of B.S. when push comes to shove. Beware!
The teachers unions all face huge challenges in the new year ahead. We need to keep hope. We need to continue working together against the government and big corporate interests. We need to be darn careful about what our own union leaders are up to also. This blogsite has become a good example of what can happen when we all get together and can talk openly. What's left of the real union spirit is still alive and well in the open teacher free speech forums, discussions, debates, Q+A's and guest blogs here. Hopefully there are more sites springing up. I will draw your attention to them whenever I discover a good one. There can never be enough or too many. Another site is not a threat to mine. It means there's still hope yet!
As for the threats and attempts to censure, consider this: Richard Brock is still out there guns a blazing ready for a Showdown at the OK Coral. There is strength in numbers. We are getting closer to exposing those who will betray and sell out our basic union principles at OECTA through hard, honest questions and the truth of our convictions. That's why they fight back so much and keep going after Richard, won't let him back. They are probably quite afraid of him and of us. They should be. There's more and more of us and we are going to just keep on growing the more they try to stop us. They can martyr or crucify all they want. It backfires and just helps spread the very ideas they are trying to stop. Just ask Jesus for crying out loud! If they don't think so then good. They are only helping nail shut their own political "leadership" coffin!
The grass roots are the only true source of a unions power. Cut off from that they cannot continue to grow and sustain themselves. Only we allow them to get way with their bullshit though our apathy or silence. Complacency sets in. Maybe that's what got OECTA into its mess after decades of hard work building a strong, vibrant teacher union. Unfortunately there will always be those who get confused or have been just waiting to take advantage of complacency for their own personal gain all along.
The buzz being created here on line about the union betrayals of principle and the true cost of compromise is being read far and wide. Everybody who matters will soon know if they don't all ready. The buzz is contagious and make no doubt, it has all ready long gone viral concerning OECTA Provincial, the others too. Those who exploit our unions for their own power or gain can run, but they can no longer hide. Everybody will know or can guess what they are doing. What they have done. They will know the shame.
The right questions are loudly being asked. The correct answers can't be denied, hidden, or tied up with legal loopholes forever. Skull duggery wont matter in the long run. To paraphrase Alert Einstein, it's not the answers that enlighten us. It's the questions that are asked which count most.
There's no going backwards now. OECTA can't stop the clock. More and more questions keep being asked. It's become a ticking time bomb. Rest assured, it is the excellent, probing questions which are being asked that will help turn the situation around. When we hear the answers, the difference between truth and lies will be as apparent as night and day. In darkness, ignorance and apathy the corruption can continue to hide and grow. Through the enlightenment of your continuing questions and search for answers, the truth will ultimately be clearly exposed for all to see. As hard as it is be patient. It's the truth that will set us free.
I look forward to continuing the good union fight with all of you in the year ahead! The unions belong to the teachers. It's high time to take them back!