Thursday, July 12, 2012

This government likes to talk

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.


elementaryteacher said...

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.

You can't be serious that the opposition actually believes a party should be characterized by baseness and depravity in order to govern?

(That's what "turpitude" means.)

Did you intend to say "fortitude" or something similar?

Anonymous said...

There are now no unions left at the table - OSSTF met with the government, and as a result of the meeting (see bargaining bulletin 16, has decided to let the process revert to the LRA, with local bargaining. AEFO has yet to have its meeting, but will have to have some compelling reason that isn't obvious to stay. One of the other characteristics of this government is its willingness to sign deals that are not public - the 1% springs to mind. Is there a chance there is something even sweeter in the deal than what is presented publicly?
The other element that appears to be glossed over in the analyses, except in the initial Globe article, is the precedent the government has set by signing a deal directly with the union, and without the agreement of the employer representatives. The implications of this may be profound, especially as they think their way forward to a future legislated framework for future bargaining. The government has had a low opinion of school boards for some time, viewing them as poorly governed and obstacles to achieving their education agenda in the ways in which they would like to achieve it. Does this mark the final nails in the coffin of school boards as we know them. Or do they remain too useful as foils for public criticism about school closures to remain, even if in some attenuated form?

Anonymous said...

re you kidding me?!? OECTA made a deal to save itself. Plain and simple. Want to really save some money? It’s called, “ONE SCHOOL BOARD”! No duplication of services or administration – one board, minus the antiquated Catholic dogma and curriculum. I’m glad OSSTF and ETFO have the principles to fight for public education and don’t cower behind religion and spineless, legally questionable memoranda’s of understandings like OECTA. Classroom educators shouldn’t only be the ones to shoulder austerity measures.

Education Reporter said...

All who've commented to this point...

The unions that come to an agreement with the government are the ones that will get it to move from its initial position. No other way to express this.
Funny that in 2009, when the 2008-12 PDT agreements were struck that included 3% a year, plus professional development funding, etc. etc. etc., none of the federations were complaining about a government making an illegal agreement with federations.

Now that these negotiations include concessions, however...

The single-school system conversation has nothing to do with this. Let's remember that as many were out there nailing Catholic boards tot he cross on their GSA positions, OECTA polled its members and they supported the measures in Bill 13, including the use of the GSA label.

Plus, the vast majority of these teachers would still be employed if we had a single school system. The students wouldn't evaporate overnight folks, and they'd need teachers and administrators, etc.

Given the memo from this week sent to boards on negotiations, the government is signalling it will fund the system based on its decisions. Come back to the table and suggest reasonable alternatives that meet the same fiscal goals, or watch them roll them out regardless.