With the dumbfounding "Wynne Ultimatum" and a mad frenzy of media teacher bashing perhaps unseen since the Harris Years, it's been a "week from hell" for many of our province's teachers and education support workers! Despite the fall of Steven Harper! And quite unfairly so!
As my October 25th blog below shows, the OCSTA and OPSBA school board bargaining agents ["trustees"] received $4,572,632 in Collective Bargaining payments for 2014-15 alone! Surprise! Guess what? It turns out that's about the same as the total controversial amount received by all the teacher unions combined, from the MOE since 2008!
News of the teacher union payments has certainly gotten John "Cued" Public and Jane "Ontario" Doe royally p.o'ed! However, please note; the amount was clearly spelled out in a well known MOE July 15th memo [LINK] on GSN grants for Special Education! How come it wasn't breaking news then? Or for that matter still isn't, except on our decidedly underground but still free social media?!?
Instead, all we hear in the mainstream media is the media teacher bashing frenzy which reached a feverish pitch Friday over the teacher union CB payments! The school board trustees at most got passing mention that they had received some kind of undisclosed funds too. It was usually towards the end of a fiery denunciation of our teacher unions being given a lot of tax payer dollars. Further fuelling the flames, the totals are now considerably more than originally estimated since the provincial auditor released the numbers covering the 3 sets of negotiations from 2008,
for AEFO, ETFO, OECTA and OSSTF combined [LINK].
Seems there's an inconvenient truth here; one that's too inconvenient to mention in any detail! Namely that the Wynne government has awarded ALL the parties involved in the troubled negotiations with payments to cover the huge cost overruns associated with, what they now admit, is their new, flawed, collective bargaining model!
No matter that ETFO and CUPE have been without a contract for 14 months! Or that AEFO, OECTA and OSSTF quite frankly settled for bad ones! The OPSBA and OCSTA trustees' huge windfall, in the face of their frequent intransigence in refusing to negotiate, has not been deemed worthy of public notice. Obviously, the neo con media doesn't care about our right wing trustees' $4,572,632 payment. It's out for only one thing -teacher blood!
Premier Wynne has been pretty mum for a long time now on the floundering, nay stalled collective bargaining talks. Then came her rather puzzling announcement Friday. She has threatened to deduct pay from the remaining teacher and education support worker's who still don't have a contract, for -get this: NOT performing volunteer activities for free, if they don't reach a deal by November 1st!
One assumes that like the other big wig "leaders" in the AEFO, OECTA and OSSTF teacher union provincial offices, she's been hunkering down for some very self serving damage control, especially since the shit hit the fan over the huge pay outs. The same money that some are now referring to as "hush funds" for the whole huge debacle, after the teacher numbers hit the news this week.
Quite arguably, this was payment to cover cost overruns related to the flawed Liberal government's CB process, as the premier has explained. Certainly, 1000's of hours were spent in wasted negotiations going nowhere. In the real world that does cost money. Unless of course our teacher officials pack a veeeeeery big picnic basket. Then raced from far and wide across our province, heading on foot to Toronto whenever beckoned by OPSBA, OCSTA and the MOE. Perhaps sleeping instead in their chairs for days, weeks and months on end. While Kathleen and Liz fiddled about endlessly with their "new CB model" and tempers burned!
Be that as it may, our supposed union "leaders" still look as thick as thieves in my books. Having feasted on the rotting corpse of collective bargaining in this province, these patricians then took the "Wynne fall" money to just pipe down and go convince their members to accept whatever table scraps they were able to bring home for the plebs, their teacher members.
For shame! Did they dig in their heels and fight long and hard to get back your sick day banks? No, far from it! They have reportedly negotiated to fund the CB cost overruns with them, as the classroom teachers receive pennies on the dollars under the new sick day bank "cash in" agreement. It's quite the stink! A big mess all around!
So. What have we learned this week? Well, if you didn't know all ready, it must be a very disturbing truth to learn so late in the game: the media is not a very accurate reflection of reality! Nor do they seem to be prepared to do any owning up any time soon; and the damage is all ready done!
ETFO members can at least take some consolation in that your affiliate has unequivocally stated that they are not interested, in nor will they religiously accept, any 30 pieces of silver in payment for this shit storm. You certainly are owed a lot of our respect for still standing on principle! For leading by example!
The notorious OECTA Code of Silence has firmly descended over anything and everything OECTA once again, always a very ominous sign. As for our OSSTF education support workers? Well, maybe you can still get Elliott off his duff to pull something real and substantial for you out of this dung heap. Who knows? Good luck!
The fresh breath of air that otherwise welcomed new hope in Ottawa this week did not provide us with much relief in Ontario, as teachers. But of course education is a provincial portfolio. And even in Ottawa, Trudeau is still a newbie when it comes to actually standing up to our countries real Neo Liberal powers that be.
The whiff of despair, must seem quite palpable in the teacher and educational support worker trenches. Still, see my field report on the resolute ETFO Wynne Wednesday rally last week. Or the flurry of CUPE member tweets as they once again proudly and steadfastly donned black every Friday.
We were all once a part of a proud Ontario teacher union movement that stood tall! Let's hope that there are some real leaders out there at CUPE, ETFO and even OSSTF who still are willing to do so as push comes to shove! That they are not about to follow the sad example we've seen so far; of those who will collaborate and acquiesce, giving in to the all too self evident deep, dark cynicism, and manipulation of our Wynne government and a Vichy union mentality. The alternative does not serve us, our provinces working families, or the future generations whom we teach, very well! Let's hope it's not too late!