President Sam Hammond has delivered a barn burner of an opening speech at ETFO AGM 2015. He hit all the right buttons reinforcing this year's "Bargaining for the Future, Respecting Our Past" AGM theme. He warned that should the same key concession demands be made again, the province can expect the "fight of their lives". You can see and hear Sam's speech for yourself @ Hammond
Although ETFO has accepted the Premier's special invitation to return to the CB table, there is quite appreciably no extra hurry, after endless months of government stalling. So, what me worry?!? Is everything A-OK, as September quickly approaches and classes are set to resume?
ETFO CB talks resume September 1st. In more haste, OSSTF returns to the table this week, while OECTA will begin a second set of talks. Previously, all 3 unions had quite pointedly walked out in frustration! Indeed, both ETFO and OSSTF had stressed that the OPSBA's regressive, concession bargaining demands had to be removed before the talks could resume.
Sam Hammond's messaging provides us with some reassurance in that he clearly asserts ETFO is not about to fold or "back down". He has the ETFO member's back and they have his. However, one must hope that nobody else in the Ontario teacher union movement breaks ranks either!
While "respecting the past", we are also mindful of FWTAO's [Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario Association] "Benedict Arnold" betrayal during the 1997 province wide "We Won't Back Down" teacher strike. Caution and vigilance need also be exercised against allowing the MOE to make a "divide and conquer" side deal again with another union partner, as happened with the July 5 2012 surprise OECTA MOU! [See]
ETFO's WTR strategy remains steady as she goes, with more details expected on August 20th. On the 20th, OECTA will also finally be in a strike position, with a rigorous WTR plan ready to be put into place as classes resume [Link]. AEFO and CUPE can soon be expected to launch fall job actions as well.
It is demonstrably prudent for the teacher and education support staff unions to escalate their next strike plans carefully. As OSSTF's Magnificent 7 spring strike strategy [Link] clearly revealed, the Wynne government is demonstrably been much more liable to legislate teachers back to work rather than than try to seriously negotiate the contentious contract issues at the CB table. And to the best of my knowledge, the 2012-2013 ETFO OLRB mandatory EC case is still outstanding, with Judge Fishbein's verdict still on hold. [Link]
Regretfully, Sam Hammond's "Fight of their Lives" pledge is all fine and dandy, of course. That is until the Liberal game playing leads the teachers to full walk out strikes that they then legislate back to work again. So what will ETFO and the other unions do? Politely complain and return to class? That has been the past practice unless one looks back to the 1970's, when our teacher unions were not afraid to exercise civil disobedience, even ultimately resigning in mass to force Premier Davis' hand over issues like prep time and the right to strike.
Are today's teachers prepared to play hardball to protect our past hard fought rights and gains? Alas, there isn't any teacher shortage to make Wynne take the ethical route. Perhaps she will now be prepared to remove her apparent disguise and finish the Mike Harris Common Sense revolution when it comes to the province's teacher unions? No matter. Resigning in mass no longer seems to be a civil disobedience option anyway.
All smiles! Premier Bill Davis was a good sport but only after teachers stared him down!
Different times require different options. Can you imagine our union leadership leading the civil disobedience charge on their own accord? I doubt it. Our homework as teacher free speech advocates might well be to consider what "we the Ontario teachers" can do instead of just throwing in the towel in light of our current reality, and argue and forward the case accordingly.
True, as with the BC teachers, the courts might arguably be more understanding in ultimately supporting our teacher union positions away from the contract table. However, that could take many years during which the Ontario teacher union movement would suffer a major set back plunging us back decades into the past for the foreseeable future.
Cautious, concerned and vigilant teacher activists need to be able to dare to step outside the box in our thinking, questioning and discussing where the Ontario teacher movement goes next! Sam Hammond's speech is certainly fortifying. However, reasonably speaking, it would be foolish not to expect that the next few weeks or even months will be much more complicated than putting the MOE and trustees on notice of the union's commitment and member solidarity. So too the outcome of the different unions varied WTR and walk out strike strategies as proclaimed since last June.
Eyeball to eyeball, like during the 1970's or 90's, might we well soon arrive at a point where it all boils down to a question of who will blink first? The teachers or the province? Despite all the fine words will our Ontario teacher unions roll over and play dead when the province pulls out the big legislative guns as push comes to shove? What impact will the tight Federal election race, with the Conservatives currently leading in our province, possibly have? Would it behove the Premier to out con the Conservative vote by crushing the teacher protests? Or would she rather appease us to try avoid an army of teachers working to elect a federal NDP government? We live in interesting times indeed!
Methinks I've asked more questions than I have answered with this blog dear reader, so please feel free to add your own Comments below!
ETFO: Teaching + Union historical timeline from 1900 @ ETFO
ETFO announces Phase 2 of it's WTR measures @ Here!
OPSBA initial proposal is @ OPSBA
Teacher Free Speech Summer 2015 Contract Guide @ Here!
More Teacher Summer News + Views Links @ Here!