Saturday, July 24, 2010

CUPE first out of the gate?

It's been well over a month since I looked in on this last, but it appears the Canadian Union of Public Employees is first out of the gate in the last several weeks in actually signing deals with school boards for collective agreements for full-day kindergarten early childhood educators (ECEs).
A Google Alert brought my eye to a Friday release on the conclusion of an agreement with one of the two boards I cover. A quick search of CUPE's news releases shows a similar agreement with the French-language Catholic school board for southwestern Ontario (odd, since it has had full-day kindergarten for years now), also released Friday, along with an earlier release on an agreement with the Upper Canada District School Board.
This compares to a continued sales pitch over at the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, where its ECE website is only full of releases telling ECEs why they should become ETFO members and slamming other federations.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation has its own ECE sales pitch website, where it too seems apt to throw stones at ETFO rather than post anything prominent about having actually signed any agreements with district school boards. OSSTF was invited to the provincial discussion table on ECEs, claiming victory for its work, but again there is scant to no news release on it either representing ECEs with a school board or having come to an actual agreement.
The 20% increase in pay claim is well, ironic, isn't it? While not the leading reason, it's these increases that pushed boards to the point where many (if not all) couldn't offer extended-day components of full-day kindergarten at a reasonable enough cost for parents to sign up en masse. Most boards would never admit that, saying the use of the regulation was due to poor parental interest in the program and/or low registration. I remain curious to hear the number of school boards that have used the regulation to get out of offering extended-day programs themselves and continue allowing third-party partners (who pay their ECEs less, no doubt) to run these programs for the next two school years.
It's always been a curiosity of mine to see what the battle for ECEs at school boards would look like, and it turns out it's been as interesting as expected. The government invited those unions with experience in working with ECEs to the table (freezing out ETFO and who knows who else), and the union with perhaps the most experience, period, is the first to come out and announce agreements.


Anonymous said...

It's all for the good of the children though ER isn't it:-)
Watching the unions squabble over the ECE like human wishbones.


Education Reporter said...

Anon 27 July 16:46
And, not at all surprising.
ETFO's (successful) lobbying to make sure teachers were a prominent part of full-day learning? From this skeptic's point of view, it takes all those 0.5 FTE dues-paying teachers and turns them into 1.0 FTE dues-paying teachers. As dues are a percentage of wages...
The move to grab the ECEs? Given continued declining enrolment, both ETFO and OSSTF will continue to see a natural decline in their membership numbers (and dues as a result, unless they hike the amounts) as fewer teachers are required. Reaching out to the only new employee group in education? That's a significant potential for new dues-paying members.

They can dress it up in all kinds of messaging on the kids, the teachers, the people, how it's all so vital, yadda yadda... at the end of the day, it's not that hard to break it down to a much, much simpler rationale.


John L said...


I don't see ECEs as a natural fit into one of the teacher unions, as opposed to CUPE which seems more representative of the support staff.

I'd imagine that if the ECEs were lumped in with the teachers it'd quickly evolve into those jobs only being done by teachers, or bumping up the requiremnts for the job to make ECEs equivalent to teachers. In some ways it makes for an unuasual scenario; teachers claim that they're the only ones really qualified to educate kids and yet they'll be working side-by-side with other educators lacking the professional qualifications they have. I suspect there'd be a rapid move toward insisting that all jobs be held by teachers.

If the ECE jobs are included in the teacher unions I could see the cost of the program skyrocketing far beyond what either Pascal or the Liberals planned for.

Banderblogger said...


ECEs have already been part of a teachers' union. OSSTF has had ECEs, EAs, Speech Language Pathologists, Social Workers and all types of professional education workers within their ranks for over 10 years.

And Hugo, saying that the unions' scramble for ECEs is simply a grab for dues is a bit of a short reach. What do education unions do with their dues? A lot more than advocate for higher wages. You know that the people that actually work in Education are major stakeholders in protecting and enhancing public education. Unions give education workers an organized voice, one that needs to be heard along with those of the ivory tower academics, the vote mongering politicians, parents and students themselves.

Education Reporter said...


It may be a bit of a short reach-- but at its basest reasoning, that's it. ETFO, OSSTF, OECTA and CUPE all run fantastic programs for their members that benefit the system at large. They've also used dues to put in place the steps that, really, led to provincial discussion tables.

But at the end of the day, with the FTEs dropping (currently in elementary, but soon they'll plummet in secondary), it's a dues game. With next to no experience with ECEs (and a campaign seen at times to be against their extended use in classrooms), why else would ETFO be fighting so hard to represent them? The unions that already represent other workers in schools have far more experience in assuring their members' rights are protected. Look at the second-to-last round of bargaining for educational assistants-- they got clauses to better respect the actual hours many of them worked, as well as language protecting them from being assigned all the supervision minutes teachers were slowly losing.