Bill 115 A Major Victory for Ontario Federations and All Unions

 

As is well known now, the Ontario Teachers’ unions won a critical court victory over the provincial Liberal government in the Ontario Superior Court in April. The court ruled Bill 155 unconstitutional and t also ruled that the unions and the government must work together on a remedy.

A “remedy” in both legal and labour relations terms is a way to fix a legal error often termed “making a member or a union whole” which is meant to mean that we must return to the days BEFORE Bill 115 was imposed and restore all of the rights the union had before this illegal act.

 

As you recall the Liberal government froze the teachers’ wages (but no other public wages) and imposed contracts that abolished the further banking of sick days and slowed down a teacher’s movement ‘through the grid’ – the teacher’s pay scale ranking, by delaying earned raises.

If one were really to make all of the teachers whole again, it would involve beginning again with the established banked sick days leading to an eventual sick leave gratuity at retirement and compensation for all of the lost months due to the slow grid movement and a pay raise from some form of arbitration equal to at least the average union raises during the freeze until Bill 115 was repealed.

 

Folks that is a lot of money and it was money stolen from the teachers and education workers of Ontario by an illegal act, as illegal as bank robbery.

 

If the unions settle for anything less than 100% full restoration they are selling themselves and their members short.

 

Any teacher voting Liberal in the future needs to give their head a shake

 

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Why the Teacher Shortages in USA and UK?

 

The forces of corporate reform and upper management never seem to learn that treating teachers badly creates teacher shortages. New Zealand had this experience over a decade ago when they instituted a number of anti-teacher reforms and created an instant teacher shortage. When you are two islands separated from the world by thousands of miles in all directions, this is as dumb as a bag of hammers.

 

When the Harris Tories did the same in Ontario 1996-2003 they also set off a round of early retirements that caused their own crisis. Right now in the USA and UK right wing reforms and also including Obama’s national government are creating their own teacher shortages. When actually asked, teachers report persistent low wages but also an environment of few resources, far too much testing, too much teacher testing, and never enough time to get the work done.

 

Valerie Strauss at WaPo is a real friend of education. There are very few in major media outlets. Check the link below.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/08/24/the-real-reasons-behind-the-u-s-teacher-shortage/

 

Will Ontario or other provinces be affected by teacher shortages? The answer is not clear but what we know from world wide experience is that when teachers are treated badly, sooner or later there is a distinct shortage of teachers.

 

 

Pearson and Privatization.

 

When progressive policy wonks try to warn teachers and education workers that there are powerful forces at work with the full intention of privatizing education, they are often met with eye rolling and a belief that some religious nuts or fly-by-night second floor strip mall operators are trying to nibble at the edges of the system but with population growth and general public satisfaction there will always be a 90%+ public school system for the vast majority of students teachers and ed workers.

 

When you try to convince them that it is a vast well- funded right wing effort you are seen as a conspiracy theorist who will tell them next that 911 was an inside job.

 

A recent report given to BCTF by Don Gutstein of Simon Fraser U and now widely circulated to the federations and social media might start changing some minds that privatization is a clear and present danger.

 

http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/Privatization/PearsonGutsteinReport.pdf

 

 

Education Critical as part of a “New Deal” the Only Way Forward that can electrify the NDP

 

Whether we are talking Federal politics or Ontario, BC or any other province, future gains for the NDP must be idea and policy driven. Yes leaders are very important as Jack Layton demonstrated but it is no substitute for policy when a 74 year old Bernie Sanders can electrify the American political scene. We all need to recall that ‘Trudeaumania’ was the backcloth to the 1968 Liberal victory but in one term, the bloom was off the rose and David Lewis, The NDP leader of the time held the balance of power by 1972. It can happen that fast.

 

Some commentators are literally saying “with Justin Trudeau shifting left we don’t see a role for the NDP”. This is a political error of judgment that is not only naïve it is ahistorical. Canada has a Liberal and an NDP for very clear historical and ideological reasons.

 

The Liberals on their good days – when not voting in the War Measures Act or Interning Japanese Canadians, have been a party motivated primarily by ‘individual rights’. Pierre Trudeau epitomized the Liberals greatest modern achievement with The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a masterpiece of ‘liberal’ ideology.

 

The Canadian constitution does not specifically enshrine the right to free healthcare, the right to a free education, the specific right to a union, the right to a pollution free environment, or any new collective rights for French Canadians, Ist Nations, because those are ‘collective rights’ and not enough Liberals were willing to go that far. The real tension between the Liberals and the NDP boils down to individual rights vs. the rights of society. Liberals view of equality usually stops at ‘equality of opportunity’ where social-democratic New Democrats see equality as ‘equality of outcomes’ AKA Equality of results’

 

If identifiable groups lag behind in terms of housing, income, education, health outcomes, the NDP does not see trees it sees forests.

 

Canadian society is making progress against the former raw and blatant discrimination against racialized minorities, women, LGBTQ citizens, and even 1st Nations are painfully and slowly mitigated the battle is shifting towards the great divide, income and wealth inequality.

 

“Because it is 2015” is a great slogan for Trudeau’s 50% female cabinet and a wonderful slogan for women in other governments, executives in the private sector but it does little for the underpaid waitress, the retail clerk, the healthcare aid, the childcare worker who all toil at substandard wages only 70% of males in comparable work.

 

In the real economy, no matter what they may say, the Conservatives have a well-earned reputation as the friend of owners and upper management. The CCF- NDP has an almost 83 year reputation as the friend of the workers and other oppressed groups. The Liberals own self-description would not allow for them to actually take a side. They would see themselves as ‘honest brokers’ seeking compromise between various warring factions.

 

At this point in our history, where all new wealth accrues to the top 1% and the full 99% are falling further and further behind, what we do not need is a new referee. Workers need a full throated, unequivocal, advocate who amplifies their demands for fair treatment and a far greater share of the wealth. They need a much more powerful friend who can make the Liberals squirm, to ask all of the awkward questions about pipelines, about 1st Nations in 3rd world conditions, about minimum wages, about all the questions that the Liberals would rather not address.

 

This role will never be passé.

 

We consider the best way forward is to package and propose a “New Deal for Canadians” taken directly from the Roosevelt New Deal. A New Deal would build out from traditional NDP strengths.

 

Polling, year in year out, shows that Canadians support the left or progressive positions only in three major areas- health, education and the environment.

 

An election platform must encompass a vision not a laundry list of unrelated promises. It must be coherent from top to bottom. It must be affordable, costed, popular, and progressive. It also must be very difficult for Liberals to adopt.

 

Such a ‘New Deal’ must acknowledge its roots with Roosevelt in the Depression. Yes our constitution grants most education power to the provinces but nothing stands in the way of direct Federal grants to students equal to the average cost of tuition.

 

Such a new Deal might look like the proposal below.

 

A New Deal for Canadians.

 

  1. The NDP will add DentaCare and PharmaCare to our health system to complete Medicare.

  2. The NDP will eliminate college and university tuition at public colleges and universities. The NDP will establish a national childcare program.

  3. The NDP will rapidly shift our energy needs from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This will be complete by 2050.

  4. Income and taxation: The NDP will tax the purchase of stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial vehicles at a rate necessary to pay for health and education reform. The government will hunt down tax evaders. The government will create two new tax brackets at $250K and $1M annual income.

  5. The NDP will make it easier to create and to join unions in order to increase wages in Canada.

     

    This is not a radical program. It already exists in one form or another in many developed nations. This program or reasonable facsimile can be printed on a post card and rapidly circulated on social media.