As a followup to the last post on the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) memorandum of understanding (MOU) comes news the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSFT) and the French-language teachers' union have re-entered discussions with the government.
Only the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and those in the sector represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) maintain their decision to walk away from the provincial discussion tables. One hopes the ETFO membership has not forgotten they lost wage parity in the 2008-12 contract because of the stubbornness of their provincial executive and that this dynamic doesn't happen again.
Over the almost nine years this government has been in office, it's proven a few things in how it talks and the actions that follow.
The Liberals like to talk. They float trial balloons like there's no tomorrow. They have a particular penchant for governing by regulation-- meaning they can say all sorts of things when the legislation is on the floor at Queen's Park but then change tone quite dramatically by the time regulations are approved by cabinet and published in the Gazette.
They like to talk tough. No more of this. So much for that.
But in the last round of tough talk, as arbitration agreements started stacking up against their attempts to implement freezes and clawbacks in some part of the broader public sector, they backed down and compromised. The opposition, as is its right, seized upon these eventual agreements as signs the Liberals are too soft, don't have the turpitude to govern, etc.
Kudos to OECTA for staying at the PDT. Just like it did for the 2008-12 contracts, the federation realized it had more to gain by continuing discussions than by huffing and guffawing to itself in the corner. The MOU is the result, with clauses that will likely see any improved items in other agreements fall into its lap as well.
I don't buy the suggestion tying the willingness to keep discussions moving to suggestions in QMI papers and elsewhere the union did so because of negative reaction to Catholic school boards' positions on Bill 13 and gay-straight alliances. Particularly since OECTA proudly stated its own members supported the legislation and the label. Or the notion that being the first to ink an MOU was aimed at sustaining the publicly funded Catholic school system in Ontario-- those teachers would still teach under a single system, even if they had different representation and different employers. The Bill 13 and single-system issues are ones for trustees and bishops, not the rank-and-file who benefit from this deal.
Returning to my main point, those who continue to talk to this government get agreements. Agreements where the government moves from its publicly stated objectives and directives. This has been proven time and again, with the government being patient enough to wait for everyone to come back to the table.
ETFO lost in the last round because it held out trying to punish or make a point against the government. It's convinced it can do so again. The others, while as bold on that podium on July 6, seem to realize there's always value in going back to the table.
This government likes to talk-- and those who keep talking with it tend to reach a deal.