Opening Statement

Thursday 30 April 2015

Teachers: Ask The Big Strike Pay Question!

My Blogsite Acronym Guide is @ Here! 

Our teacher unions: Back to the Grassroots!

What a week! On April 25th, the ubiquitous Toronto Sun caused much online surprise and concern among local Toronto OECTA members with it's "news" claim that the Catholic schools would be going on strike as early as May 10th! That, of course, is the date when ETFO will be in a strike position instead. No matter, the Toronto Sun story served to stir up a slew of nasty teacher bashing, as can be seen in the Comments section below the "news" story @ Sun

Fortunately, OECTA President James Ryan has since clarified the incorrect date to put the local membership better at ease. As recent news reports and this week's Provincial Bargaining Update state:
There have been reports from the media concerning a May 10th strike action date. Be advised this is for ETFO members, not OECTA members. Further, strike actions in Durham and Sudbury are OSSTF job actions.

OECTA is not yet in a strike position and it is our intent to return to the bargaining table in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues before moving to some form of job sanction.

President James Ryan has clearly stated that the earliest a Catholic Teachers strike could happen is mid to late June, but strategically this is not a good time frame. As reported during rallies, the fall is a more realistic time frame.

OECTA President James Ryan

It's reassuring to see President James Ryan jump promptly into the fray! Disturbing memories of the surprise 2012 OECTA MOU [Link], reached by the hauntingly similar negotiating CB team still at the helm of current talks with the province, continue to cast long shadows of doubt over leadership of the Catholic teachers' union. 

OECTA 2012 President + Current Contract Services' Kevin O'Dwyer

The recent alarm is quite understandable. Consider that OECTA members received news of the July 5th 2012 OECTA MOU through the media, rather than their union. And then only after the teachers had already left school for the summer holidays with OECTA reassurances [Link], despite claims by OSSTF and ETFO to the contrary [Link], that any such deal was not pending. 

True, it's a small step. And James will be gone at the end of June. Still it's something. With OECTA, we still often measure progress in very small steps, sometimes more like 1 forward and 2 back, but I rest my case.

OSSTF Magnificent 7: 2 all ready on strike + 5 more still to go!

Jame's statement also raises some other broader concerns! There's the seeming happenstance of OECTA not be in a strike position, as James asserts, until mid June, with a fall strike date actually being more to their advantage. OSSTF's "Magnificent 7" strike strategy [Linkis currently about to be extended to school board number 3 as early as next Monday in Peel region, and ETFO will be in a position to walk by May 10th. Defacto, it seems OECTA teachers will once again, like in 2012-13, be staying put in class while their colleagues in the public schools are hitting the picket lines this spring! 

Perhaps OECTA's last minute strike reinforcements might prove incisive in finally pushing the teacher strikes "over the top" to victory, but at what interim cost to our public school colleagues whom will be all ready out on the pavement? Theoretically, it could be advantageous for our teacher unions to jointly stage a multi layered, 3 affiliate, strike strategy. However, unconfirmed rumours persist that neither OSSTF nor ETFO attended this years OECTA AGM.  We might suspect why tradition was broken, for any number of reasons, none too complimentary. 

Think about it: Is it conceivable that solidarity among the affiliates could be that sufficiently tight, after all which happened last time with the OECTA Road Map? Are OSSTF and ETFO so especially enamoured with OECTA that they would now willingly cut them such slack, while their own members meanwhile suffer? Let's not be absurd! If so, than you've got some serious union housekeeping to do too!

Meanwhile in Sudbury this week ...

There were some bright, inspiring cases this week of the OECTA membership getting up off their butts at the local grassroot level to show their own solidarity with the other affiliates. OECTA Sudbury Elementary, under President Kent MacNeill provides a case in point, though one suspects there will soon be many other examples. The unit's unwavering, good old school "tried and true" union leadership, demonstrated concrete local solidarity by personally joining their public school counterparts on the picket lines outside school hours in Sudbury

Hopefully other local OECTA units across the province will soon also demonstrate similar OECTA solidarity and leadership locally where it otherwise, in the short turn, seems so sadly lacking and incredulous. We certainly look forward to learning more about these efforts here on my all affiliate teacher free speech blog! At the grassroot level, teacher solidarity can still hold strong to tie and unite, despite our differences, between affiliates and especially with the rather controversial OECTA provincial leadership.

ETFO Rocks: Solidarity 4 Ever! 

Reader comments on this teacher free speech site have recently suggested another very good idea; that the OECTA Provincial Executive should also be willing to take a strike pay cut along with the membership when the Catholic school strikes eventually roll around. As teachers, we know that we best lead by example. Would OECTASE also be willing to demonstrate very real example of concrete, teacher union leadership? 

How about at OSSTF and ETFO? The members currently seem strongly united and confident that they are being well lead. But when strike "push comes to shove", a "big guy" strike pay cut could be reassuring too! No head should be too big, nor any wallet too small, when all involved are a part of the cause. 

Nothing is more disheartening, from a grassroot teacher perspective, than getting plummeted on the front lines while those on high, who are trusted to lead, commiserate in word but not deed by their own most everyday, basic example! And that's despite whatever other possible strengths and virtues they might have! What better demonstration of commitment and solidarity with you is there than for each of our teacher union executives, CB teams and secretariats to also take a strike pay cut too, just like the rest of the rank and file members in the trenches below? 

OECTA General Secretariat Marshall Jarvis

It seems Ontario's teachers are in for the long haul. Our very unsettling 2012-13 teacher strike debacle saw varying degrees of unrest and, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic outcomes for all three of the affiliate memberships. President Ryan's recent statement confirms what many of us have long suspected; that the current strike situation will quite likely drag on into this fall. Realistically speaking, if the MOE and trustee "management" intransigence, belligerence and seeming indifference are any indication, the strikes could even last a lot longer than that. Also, the chances of a successful outcome are quite unclear! 

Will all three Ontario teacher unions, OSSTF, ETFO and OECTA stick together this time around? Will the leadership and Secretariat themselves actually "walk the talk" that's being heard about sacrifice, service and commitment from them for the "common good" on the front lines?

Now, more than ever, their actions must speak louder than words! Now's the time to ask your teacher union executives and secretariat: will you too take a pay cut for the duration of the teacher strikes just like you are requiring from your teacher members who are paying the bills?

I'm sure we all await their response with bated breath: I'd bet the answers will be very interesting indeed!


My blog on Free Speech and Grass Root Renewal is Here

Guest Blog: An OECTA Member Bill of Rights @ There!

Why you need a teacher union @ Here!

On OECTA: Manufacturing Consent @ There!

Walking the Talk: Our teacher unions need to lead by example @ Here!

Your DIY Teacher Free Speech 2015 Contract Guide @ There!


Saturday 25 April 2015

Magnificent 7: OSSTF Teachers Strike!

Teachers Strike Against Liberals’ Austerity Agenda
By Tim Heffernan (retired Toronto secondary school teacher)

Monday was the start of an important strike by secondary school teachers in the Durham District School Board. Six other boards could soon be joining them on the picket lines, depending on the speed of the negotiations. Together they (Durham and the other 6), make up what the OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation) has called “the magnificent 7.” There is the potential for the development of rolling (not rotating) strikes by a good chunk of OSSTF members across the province over the next few weeks, which involves building sustained actions in selected school boards. Durham began strike action this week. Peel and Sudbury will likely join them next week to be followed by others at a later time If they are successful, a significant dent could be made in the shield of the Liberal austerity agenda.

Traditionally, but more in name only, collective bargaining on teacher issues took place between individual school boards and their local union counterparts. However, over the last 20 years, the Ontario government  – being the sole funding source of education – has taken a more assertive role by centralizing bargaining so that the big-ticket item in negotiations, salaries, is determined by “discussions” between the government and the leaderships of the provincial unions. The declared rationale for the government intervention, under the guise of tackling the Ontario deficit, is to reduce the wages of teachers and education workers. However, reducing the debt is just a cover for the Liberals. The real end game is to break the power of the unions in order to open up the education field to the privateers.

The formal centralization process began in 2004 with the voluntary co-operation by the unions and the establishment of “provincial discussion tables.” In 2012, this process was formalized forcibly via legislation with the imposition of Bill 115 which led to a number of strips in previously negotiated local contracts:

  • Zero % wage increase;
  • Reductions in sick leave entitlements;
  • Delaying the movement of new teachers up the salary grid;
  • Eliminations of retirement gratuities.
Formalization was consolidated further with the passing of Bill 122 a year ago. This is the law that has laid the framework for the current “negotiations” – a central table for the big ticket items: salary, benefits, workload (including class size and supervision) with a local bargaining table for the remaining scraps.

At the central table, the government and OPSBA (Ontario Public School Boards Association), in addition to issues of salary and class caps, have put forward the following:

  • Elimination of prep time for non classroom teachers (e.g. library, guidance, special ed. etc); Supply teachers would get no prep time, i.e. they would be fully assigned for the entire work day;
  • More on-calls and supervision duties to be assigned to teachers;
  • Teachers’ professional judgement to be further devalued by giving Boards the power to tell teachers what/when/how to assess/evaluate student work.
  • Allowing principals and VPs to be reinstated into the teachers’ bargaining unit (think school closures and downsizing), ahead of BU members, allowing them full seniority and without payment of union dues. Thus a principal, “surplus to requirements”, could be placed into a teaching position which might lead to a “regular teacher” being laid off.
  • Further cuts to sick leave and other benefits;
If the government gets away with the above, it’s not just the teachers and education section that is in trouble. They’ll be coming after all of us.

OSSTF seem to be setting the pace in terms of militant action and I can only speak for them. Their strategy is to start with rolling strikes (see above). An innovative strategy being employed by OSSTF is that members who are not striking will be levied extra union dues to finance enhanced strike pay for those who are on strike. It remains to be seen how effective the rolling strike strategy will be. Up in the air is what elementary (ETFO) and Catholic (OECTA) teachers do. And the big question will be how the government plays it – sit it out or introduce back to work legislation with binding arbitration? And if back to work legislation is introduced, does OSSTF and the other unions have a plan B?

Originally posted on April 22, 2015 @ Rank + File Ca 


My Blogsite Acronym Guide is @ Here! 

Tim's July 2013 article on "Ken Coran: Was OSSTF Betrayed?" @ Here

OPSBA's [the trustees] initial contract offer isLink Fixed!

Strike news links are provided in the "Teacher + Union" sections of my monthly all affiliate Teacher Free Speech News and Views blogs @ Jan @ Feb @ March @ April

Here's a study guide for our new Collective Bargaining Act [2014] @  Bill 122

My DIY Teacher Free Speech Spring 2015 Contract Guide is Here!


Wednesday 15 April 2015

Cuba: What the Heck is Going On?!?

My teacher strike coverage continues soon. Please see the blogs below for more info!

Castro y Obama meet!

This is "Cuba Week" on my blogsite! Yup! Our home will be packed with family and friends, doing this and that. The teacher strikes are also about to start. But I'm off to Cuba!  Consider it one of the joys of retirement: I can come and go as I please. So what's up?

For starters, expect lots of pictures! It will be very Cuban here on my site! Also via my Twitter account [@davidchiarelli] I am off to visit my Cuban teacher friends at the Cuban schools in Santiago de Cuba. Besides hanging out doing teacher things and the like, I want to follow up on a recent news story that I think I can best research first hand.

I've been travelling to Cuba since 1981. I have even worked and stayed there for long stretches since I started the CSP [Cuban School Project] in Santiago de Cuba in 1992. Quite frankly, most of news coverage on the mainstream media about Cuba has always been very mediocre and questionable. And so: 

I want to informally find out first hand what the local reactions are within the Santiago de Cuba school community to the recent announcement by Presidents Castro +Obama that they will be "normalizing relations" between the two long standing, adversarial nations.

You might've read about recent developments in Cuba in my monthly "Teacher Free Speech News + Views" blog series since the surprise joint announcement in December. Then last weekend US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met together in person, ending 50 years of diplomatic silence, at the 7th "Summit of the Americas", the first in which the US allowed Cuba to attend. In their short, but historic tete-a-tete, President Castro brought up the deplorable US track record on Cuba. President Obama reiterated his claim that the US does not support "dictators", though he did not mention which ones. Both expressed interest in "agreeing to disagree" when need be so they can find ways to normalize US Cuba relations by getting a more constructive dialogue happening! If you missed it you can find more coverage of the Summit in my "April News and Viewsblog [Link] as well as @ NY Times and BBC

So, my suitcase is packed with the bare essentials and a few books to read along the way. Some food for thought: First, there's Tom Hayden's recent best seller "Listen, Yankee"; which purports to be an examination of the counterproductive absurdity of the 50 year US embargo of Cuba. It will be interesting to see how the issue of Cuba is framed nowadays within a progressive US mindset. Secondly, there is Ignacio Ramonet's "Fidel Castro: My Life", an exhaustive 700+ page interview with Raul Castro's older bro Fidel from just before he retired in 2006. It covers a wide variety of world social, economic, political and environmental hot button issues besides his controversial stint as Cuba's Commander in Chief since the 1959 revolution.

I've also finished reading a few books that I picked up on my last trip to Cuba in January [Link]. Fidel Castro's assessment of "Obama and the Empire", is from a series of Cuban newspaper columns he wrote between 2008-12. Fidel's seen 11th US presidents come and go. His view of Obama? Think of it as: like the man but realize he's but part and parcel of the US system. Colour Fidel interested but very questioning and cautious! At 88, place him as Cuba's still widely loved and respected elder statesmen in Cuba. His input will still be duly noted!

I've also read Che Gueverra's "Diary of a Combatant" and "Reminisces of the Cuban Revolutionary War". They are mostly about the revolutionary war in the Sierra Mountains high above Santiago de Cuba, where I am staying. The Cuban Revolution's strategy and popular thrust is well highlighted here. I look forward to also checking out more of the history of the revolution, if time permits, during my brief stay.

US Readers take note: Unlike the United States, Canada has followed a policy of "engagement" rather than join the US "boycott" of Cuba for the past 50 years. As a Canadian teacher visiting Cuba, the focus of my Cuban School Projects education relief work has always been "Made in Cuba". It is carried out in a grass root, hands on approach, directed by myself, working with the Cuban teachers and students to develop local learning resources and provide instructional and material help, at the local school level. Fortunately, it has proven very successful, against all odds and the work is still ongoing.

Many of the Cuban teachers are now my old friends, in more ways than one. They have also retired! It will be interesting to get their perspective on the new changes 56 years after the revolution. It is not uncommon that the really older folk in Santiago de Cuba were directly involved in the fight! Most adults have suffered the better part of their lives under the crippling US embargo! Then there's younger family members and the students at the school with their lives still stretching out ahead. They too can help provide a very interesting, wider and perhaps different perspective!

In an interesting twist, one of my teacher buddies; Yeyito, has decided to open a new "Rock Cafe", now allowed under the new economic reforms, to service the local community and the increasing number of tourists visiting Santiago de Cuba. When we first met, in the early 90's, the Beatles were illegal in Cuba [Link]. You can bet for sure that there will be lots of interesting Beatles and other baby boomer culture at the Cuban Rock Cafe! Think about it: they missed all that first time around. And Now? No way! So off I also go to check out the scene, and write a review

I'm not sure how I will present the bulk of my findings when I get back home. However, in time there should be some very interesting blogs for you to read. Meanwhile, I am leaving you with some useful links. Consider them as an informal "Cuba Study Guide" for your perusal. Hopefully they will help you make more sense of the Cuba stories in the news, and here on my site:


JFK: Mr. President! Have a Cuban cigar!

Tom Hayden explains the absurdity of the 50 year old US embargo @ Yankee

Ignacio Ramonets's interview book begs the question, was Fidel good for Cuba? @ Fidel Castro: My Story

An overview of the origins and history of the Cuban Revolution @ 1959

The Mafia plans for Cuba during the 1950's Habana Empire

President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs Invasion @ 1961

Playa Giron/ Bay of Pigs [1961] 

Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro: The Cuba Missile Crisis @ 1962

JFK, Cuba and Me @ Cuban Missile Crisis!

Operation Mongoose @ RFK

The CIA obsession with Fidel Castro @ CIA

The Cuban Economy during the "Special Period" following the Soviet collapse @ 1992-2010

More on the "Special Period" in Cuba @ Socialista Kamp

Cuba + the "Non Aligned Movement" @ Nonaligned

US interference + meddling in the affairs of the OAS: Organization of American States @ Hegemony 

The dissident movement in Cuba Cuba Si!

A class at the Toronto Friendship School


The Cuban School Project Story @ CSP and CSP and CSP

Santiago de Cuba: Faded Glory! Lost in Time! @ Stgo!

The Toronto Friendship School @ Cuba + The Night 2 and @ Rumours of War

Traditional Cuban song + dance @ Santiago de Cuba Diary 4

Afrocuban culture, song + dance @ Santiago de Cuba Diary 5

JFK, Cuba and Me @ Cuban Missile Crisis!

I remember "Christmas in Cuba [1996]" @ Christmas in Cuba!

A Canadian Teacher On the Road In Cuba @ [Here] and Thunder!

"Cuba and the Night" is still being posted.@ 1 @ 2 @ 3.

Days and nights at Graham Green's historic Casagrande Hotel @ Locals and @ Tourists 

An excerpt from a short unpublished novel @ A La Habana

Vintage Cuban Student Poster!


Monday 13 April 2015

The USW 9176 19 Month Strike Revisited!

My blog acronym guide is @ [Here!]

All Affiliate flags flying high!

On Saturday Toronto GTA  [Greater Toronto AreaEducation workers joined the United Steelworkers Local 9176 Crown Metal Packaging  workers in solidarity on the picket lines outside the Signet Drive plant in North York. The 120 workers have been on strike for 19 months after refusing a new contract offer containing huge pay cuts and an erosion of benefits. The Education Workers were joined by teachers from ETFO OSSTF and OECTA. All present hoped to help get the company to return to the negotiating table in the "spirit of fairness" that is so sadly lacking in Crowns treatment of the USW 9176 workers.

USW 9176: Keeps of the flame! 

In 2012 the workers had won the Crown Metal "Plant of the Year" award for productivity. Last year Crown lost $24 million due to the strike. Obviously, Crow's intransigence isn't due to the profit margin! Indeed the workers explained that Crown Packaging had been a friendly and productive plant where many of them had worked for decades. Then the very antagonistic US head office directly took over operations. They started to crack the whip, trying to break the union and get the workers to fall in line with the piss poor work terms and conditions more common south of our border. 

Since Ontario allows scab replacement workers, Crown Packaging in North York has been able to continue to manufacture beer cans for the North American market during the 19 month strike. The USW workers hope we will boycott cans and only buy our beer in bottles instead! 

Boycott beer in cans!!!

The USW 9176 workers also hope pressure can be brought to bear upon the Ontario Wynne government to change it's Scab laws. Crown has let it be known they plan to fire 75% of the striking workers and keep on the replacement workers after they break the strike. The workers have been very busy taking pictures of the potential new co-workers should Crown gets its way, so they will know who they are.

I met many of our GTA teacher colleagues supporting the protest rally from ETFO ETT, OSSTF D12 + D19, OECTA TSU, TECT and TOTL. It seemed very timely as we stood in the brisk, windy cold of early spring with possibly months of school strike action ahead. Whatever the existing differences, be they between or within the affiliates, our teacher locals have a proud history of working well together. It was reassuring to see many of our fellow "teachers in arms" from the "Great Tory Demise" of 2003 in attendance. Also a lot of younger teachers were actively involved. It's an excellent mix that bodes well for our struggle ahead!

OSSTF D19 PAC is a go!

A special "hats off" to OSSTF D-19 Peel. I'm told the members are strongly and confidently united in solidarity and good faith with their provincial leadership. Plus they have a vigorous vanguard of new and experienced teachers quite ready, willing and able to lead the charge when it's time!


See my blog from when I first visited the Crown Plant Strikers Week 5!

TYLC President John Cartwright addresses the "business of inequality" at Crown @ TYLC

See the USW 9176 Facebook page for news updates @ Facebook 

My ongoing news updates are available April News Links!


Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!