Is this negotiation?

The big news in Ontario Education today came to me via the Globe and Mail but media throughout the province was quick to report as well.  It was a story announcing that the Provincial Government had reached an agreement with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association,  OECTA.

The government pulled no punches earlier this spring when it announced its financial difficulties and flew ideas about how it was going to resolve them.  It came as no surprise that it would be partially solved on the backs of the teachers of the province.  Previously, the government had frozen principal salaries.  I recall mentioning at the time that that wasn’t going to be enough; a salary freeze had to go much further than that and the biggest group of salaries in education belong to the teachers.

Education always seems like an easy target.  The Ministry of Finance has even gone so far as to publish the names and salaries of people in education making over $100,000 a year. (as well as others in the Public Sector).

My friend @mzallieosin is never short on thoughts and posted a summary of some of the details.

  • Two year deal
  • No salary increase in either year
  • All teachers take 3 unpaid professional development days to fund movement on the salary grid (Equivalent to 1.5% pay cut)
  • Agreement to restructure the salary grid
  • Elimination of Retirement Gratuities
  • Short term sick leave plan with 10 sick days
  • No banking of sick leave days
  • Agree to develop a fair and transparent hiring process for Long Term Occasional Teachers

Through some searching, I was able to find a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry and OECTA.  It’s interesting reading.

I think that most citizens in the province have been waiting to see how this would play out.  Through a process, local school districts and now the Catholic Trustee’s Association have been cut out substantially from the negotiations.

Now that OECTA has a tentative sentiment, that turns the focus on OSSTF, AEFO, and ETFO.  What will they do?   We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Let’s go back to the original story.  Why teachers?

I think that the answer is simple.  Everyone, somewhere has a hate for a teacher somewhere.  Maybe they gave you a bad mark, or kept you for a detention, or you just lust for the short hours, 10 month job, summers off, a good pension plan, …you know all about the benefits of being a teacher.

Sadly, these comments come through online.  The Globe and Mail has open comments for their story and over 200 have replied as I write this post.  It’s an opportunity for anyone with an axe to grind to bring it out into the open.

Teachers didn’t get the current working conditions handed to them.  Any benefit has been as the result of a negotiation between a teachers’ federation and its school board/district.  It hasn’t always been the way it is now.  Concepts come to the table and are negotiated by both sides with a view towards a collective agreement.  The results aren’t always good.  I was the Collective Bargaining Committee representative for my school years ago.  My first report to my branch on a tentative agreement included a clause that a cost of living allowance would be suspended for the term of the agreement.  You can imagine how that went over.

But the key was that it was a collective agreement between the federation and its employer.  When you go through the process of creating a brief to the other side, it’s not a matter of trying to be greedy and getting unreasonable things.  It’s a matter of trying to improve working conditions.  All labour negotiations work that way.

It should be an activity between employer and employee group.  I don’t like the current tactic of taking it public.  The government is now on record defining where they see a collective agreement ending up – before negotiating even begins.  The federations are immediately painted into corner without room to wiggle.  And the public is right in the middle of it.  You’ve just got to know that both sides are very aware of public opinion.  Is this the right way to reach a meeting of the minds?

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7 thoughts on “Is this negotiation?

  1. Hi Doug,
    Thanks for attempting a discussion around this delicate issue. Two things jumped into my mind after reading your post.

    1) I’ve heard that the Catholic Teachers
    have a clause in their contracts that allpw them to get whatever the other federaions
    are able to negiotiate – should it be better than the one they agreed upon. This means that they look more agreeable in the face of the public by settling quickly but don’t risk anything because the other federations might do the work of getting them a better deal. Is this true?

    2) I’ve not been a very informed member of my teacher union until recentky, but as I watch my two sons move into the workforce as casual employees to earn their income for University, I am a little shocked at how they often get treated. Temp agencies that work outside of the rules of labour law and take a cut of the wages are a new reality for me. I’m really understanding the importance of that negotiation piece of which you speak!

    Here’s hoping that things go well in the months to come!

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  2. Well said, Doug. I’m really struggling with this one. I love some of what
    Stephen Hurley has to say in his blog post about reclaiming PD, because I think we desperately need to do that, but I don’t think it should happen on unpaid days. I, too, struggle with this entire process being done in the public eye. I’m the steward at my school, and I know I have co-workers who will wonder why we just don’t take this deal. It’s easy to forget that our working conditions are hard-won.

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  3. I agree with every aspect you bring up, Doug. These are very private details of salary and while we may be public servants, going public with the negotiation information before getting boards and teachers involved seems like the government is looking for a fight. If we want to stay at the top of the pack, and Ontario teachers are at the top in the world, then we need to keep supporting teachers in their development.

    I’m all for self-directed PD, but when it’s mandatory PD, it’s rarely great. Giving teachers the option of which PD they’d like to participate in is ideal, but giving teachers the option of opting out is not a viable solution.

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  4. bsherry, they absolutely have the “me too” clause in the agreement. If the other unions do manage to get a better deal, OECTA gets it also. For me the big issue here isn’t the agreement, it’s solidarity. Had all the unions stuck together, we may have been able to, at the very least, have a constructive dialogue with the public…educate them about what the system is like, discuss the reasons why we are at this point (government waste on a scale unseen before in this province). Proceeding with full day Kindergarten when not ONE other jurisdiction in North America has a fully funded program, and we clearly can’t afford it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great…but maybe it could wait. OR, maybe we could have fully subsidized daycare (which is certainly a lot cheaper than paying for a teacher’s salary and a CYW for each classroom).

    These are all discussions which won’t take place now that OECTA has laid its cards on the table.

    The “deal” they agreed to would have been there in November, December…into the new year. Maybe had they waited like the rest of us, taken the opportunity to really engage in aspects of the bargaining process, we wouldn’t have come to any better agreement (though certainly no worse) and that time would have been there to thoroughly discuss the issues.

    OECTA even signed the agreement without their trustee’s at the table. Now there is infighting even among the Catholic ranks.

    It is a poor excuse for bargaining, and if OECTA members are smart, look at the reality of the situation, they should choose to vote NO, reject the deal, and fire their union executives. If they change their mind in 6 months, this lowsy deal will still be waiting for them I’m quite sure.

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  5. bsherry & scooter – where did you read that they have a ‘me too’ clause? That was not in the letter or comparison chart that I rec’d from OECTA Provincial or my local. Did they leave it out? If so, could you forward it to me so I can read it?
    As for being private – I believe, being in the Public Sector wipes that out for us – anyone can go on the OCT site and see where/when we graduated (guess our age, maybe if they’re creepy or care) and what qualifications we have. This is transparency and accountability. As minions, we have to deal with this – higher ups in gov’t have ways of skirting this requirement. But I like transparency and accountability.
    Doug, I think you’re right though – everyone feels the right to throw the stones b/c everyone has had a teacher and been in school, which makes them an unqualified expert. I hate this crap. Oh, and I agree that this was not a negotiation – this was roll over and play dead. I feel bad for my OSSTF and ETFO and AEFO colleagues – it’s an untenable position for them. I will be voting NO to this agreement – I refuse to call it a ‘deal’.

    janet

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  6. To me, the bigger issue at hand is the precedent that will be set if this “process” continues. I can deal with the wage freeze; there are enough people in this province in need of work so I won’t squabble over a raise. Strips to our collective agreement will just lead to future strips and everything that our predecessors have worked for will be undone. The union we belong to is irrelevant because we all share the same job and working conditions. OECTA has only made it harder for us to stand together as one.

    I find it amusing that it’s still being referred to as a “collective agreement”. The ‘take it or leave it’ mentality of the government has removed the ‘collective’ element, and it’s clear that there’s no ‘agreement’ going on!

    I’m certain there are other ways to find the money to offset the province’s financial troubles; and if it has to come off from the education sector, dumping EQAO would be a great start…

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