Opening Statement



Thursday, 18 June 2015

OSSTF: Right to Strike!

OSSTF Update Vol. 42 No. 8 [From Twitter]

OUR RIGHT TO STRIKE, THEIR CHOICE NOT TO BARGAIN



As we have moved through this round of bargaining, some members of the public have referenced OSSTF/FEESO as a “powerful union” that has control over the government and school boards. If that were the case, negotiated settlements at all local tables and the provincial table would have been reached months ago.

The reality is that the only power that we have as a union to move toward a fair, negotiate settlement is our legal right to strike. Recent actions by the government and school boards have now put our rights in jeopardy.

Their combined actions point to a clear agenda on their part: don’t bargain. They have left it up to other commissions and legislative means to all but force another contract upon us. Through these government powers and obscure bodies, the management team has sought to erode our right to strike; the only real power and leverage we legally have to get to a fair deal.
Despite their assertions that they support the negotiations process, the Wynne Government and various chairs of school boards have turned to other means to force resolutions rather than talking it out at the bargaining table. Their tool box is full of legal gadgets at their disposal. One is the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which can be used by any party in negotiations to help resolve disputes. The school boards have already used that one to their advantage.

But, there are other more exclusive tools that they can use. The Education Relations Commission, made up of government appointees, has determined that the school year was in jeopardy in three boards. More imposing is the majority that the Wynne Government holds in the legislature. The government has the ability to pass any law that it chooses.
Make no mistake, the management team is using those weapons to destroy the only means of defense that we have to preserve our working conditions and the learning conditions for students: the right to strike.

This addiction to using legislation rather than negotiation to settle contracts has been all too frequent in recent years. The Harper Conservatives did this to Canada Post employees in 2011, and then again to Air Canada workers twice, both in 2011 and 2012. McGuinty legislated TTC workers back after less than two days on the picket lines in 2008. The threat of legislative interference in the bargaining process reaches both the public and private sectors. Did we forget to mention Bill 115?

If you are a school board, OPSBA or the government, you have far more legislative power than those “powerful” unions. The right to strike is the only check and balance in the negotiating process to stop management from eroding our working conditions and student learning conditions. If that right disappears, workers will be left powerless to negotiate fair deals. The right to strike is worth protecting and fighting for.



Kathleen + Mike: OLP Comes Full Circle!

COMMENTARY

OSSTF's Magnificent 7 Strikes were far from futile, despite the province's decision to legislate the teachers back to work rather than try to negotiate a new contract deal, 9 months after the last MOU expired. Rather, the strikes served to put them on notice that the teachers are not fooled, nor cowered into wasting any more time with their stalling tactics at the CB table and the teacher smear campaign being carried out visa the mass media. The province has certainly shown it's true hand, and it's not a helping one extended in the spirit of co-operation to reach a fair and properly negotiated deal!

It is a sad state of affairs when the public dialogue on our constitutional rights, in this case our right to strike, is so easily mocked and blown off at our great peril as a fair and just society. Likewise, to see a seeming socially progress leader like Premier Wynne fall so quickly in line with the neo Lib corporate reform agenda for Ontario, once the Hudak Harris PC neo con's were defeated. The OLP has been grievously rewarded with the teachers election help, in a majority government where power corrupts, and indeed absolute power corrupts so absolutely. 

The unions will do well to continue to pursue a constitutional challenge to Bill 115. Also to monitor the BC teacher court developments. One hopes that legal recourse to the "law of the land" might still save the day. In the meantime, the stage has decisively been set for province wide teacher strikes across Ontario this fall. OSSTF has clearly outlined the Neo Lib "management" intransigence to date above. Regretfully, responsible "civil disobedience" must now also be considered as a part of the teacher strike tool kit should the OLP continue to attack teachers and not play with good intent by the rules!

Further Reading: 

OSSTF: Magnificent 7 strategy is outlined @ Here!

The OLRB, ERC and back to work legislation, as well as the provinces teacher smear campaign is documented with links especially in my Teacher Free Speech May and June News and Views blogs @ May and @ June

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