March 13, 2012 - No. 27
A New Direction Is Needed for Society
Good Jobs at Canadian Standard Incomes Are Not the
Impediment to a Prosperous Society
New Direction Is Needed for Society
Week in the Legislature
• Good Jobs at
Canadian Standard Incomes Are
Not the Impediment to a Prosperous Society - Steve Rutchinski
Resisting the Attack
• Teachers Resist
Anti-Social Offensive and
Nation-Wrecking - Dan Cerri
• The Only Discussion Government Wants to
Provincial Table Is "Yes" to Cuts - Christine Nugent
• Teachers Speak Out in Defence of their
The Battle for Toronto
• Ford Regime's Attack on City Workers
Continues - David Greig
• All Out to
Support Library Workers! - Philip
• City Council
Calls for Exemption to
Neoliberal Free Trade Agreement with Europe - Janice Murray
A New Direction Is Needed for Society
This Week in the Legislature
A review of the prior week
in the Legislature requires
discussion on the actions of the McGuinty government and the state of
the democratic mechanisms and institutions in the province. This past
week witnessed three examples of dictatorial power revolving around the
Throughout the week, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath
challenged the McGuinty government on its censorship of job clauses in
pay-the-rich schemes to companies that provided little
job growth or even closed their operations, like Navistar did when it
shut down its truck plant in Chatham last year.
On March 5, Horwath said:
"The government handed out more than $30 million to
Navistar, only to watch Navistar then ship nearly 2,000 jobs to Mexico.
We requested the contract that was signed with Navistar, and the
government, of course, refused to provide it, so we went ahead and we
got it through the freedom-of-information process.
However, when we received the contract, job targets, investments and
all sorts of other pieces of information were censored from the
Horwath revealed that the McGuinty government has
similarly censored numerous other contacts.
On March 7, McGuinty declined a meeting with Ontario's
teachers' unions to talk about provincial negotiations after the
government called for a wage freeze and an end to retirement sick-day
payouts. Instead, McGuinty went outside the negotiating process and
posted a YouTube video asking teachers to "do their
part to fight the deficit." The next day in the Legislature,
Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns asked the premier: "Why won't
the Premier sit down face to face with teachers to discuss issues he's
so eager to talk about on YouTube?" In his patronizing reply, McGuinty
tried to insinuate teachers into colluding with the government's
anti-social offensive to pay for a crisis neither they nor the people
of Ontario created. He said:
"I just want to take this opportunity to say how proud I
am of Ontario teachers and of the partnership that we've entered into
with Ontario teachers.
"The fact of the matter is, it's one thing for us in
government to come up with new ideas, to provide more funding, and to
try to improve the quality of the curriculum and the education that we
provide our teachers. But at the end of the day, it's the men and women
who work inside those classrooms every single
day who are making such a powerful difference in the lives of our
children and our young people. They are single-handedly building a
brighter future for all of us.
"I have every confidence that we will maintain the
strength of our partnership. We will find a way forward together. We
will continue to ensure that Ontario schools are the best in the world."
On March 8, CUPE Ontario announced that the government's
Standing Committee on Finance and Public Affairs, made up of Liberal
and Progressive Conservative members, decided to forgo public
pre-budget hearings. CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn said: "This is a
real slap in the face of democracy. The
Liberals are proposing a radical restructuring of our public service
including massive service cuts, new user fees, widespread contracting
out and privatization of important public services, and they don't want
to hear from the public and experts? That's not just foolish, it's
There has not been any discussion on this matter yet in
the Legislature even though McGuinty said after the release of the
Drummond Report that there would be broad consultations on its
recommendations as part of pre-budget consultations.
Despite his efforts to portray himself through his words
as looking out for the golden mean, fairness, balance and good sense,
McGuinty's deeds speak otherwise. McGuinty and his government's actions
this past week can only be described as dictatorial. In the process,
the current mechanisms and institutions
of democracy are being destroyed. Even limited democratic mechanisms
like consultations, which actually serve to tell people what will
happen, are being dismantled. It once again leaves a modern polity in
an untenable situation. The demand for democratic renewal in which
people are put
at the centre of decision making and implementation is necessary!
Good Jobs at Canadian Standard Incomes Are Not the
Impediment to a Prosperous Society
Last week Premier McGuinty
turned down a request by
unions representing teachers and support staff in the Ontario
elementary and secondary school systems to meet and discuss
alternatives to the government's demand for a two-year salary freeze as
well as pension and other benefit cuts. McGuinty said his
government is only interested in discussing ideas that "stay within the
fiscal parameters" already set.
Those "parameters" include cuts to social program
funding by holding increases below the rising cost of living, cuts and
privatizing of public services to transfer more government revenue to
debt servicing and to "pay down the debt" which after two and a half
decades of precisely the same bankrupt economics,
is never going to happen.
McGuinty even went on YouTube to deliver an "economics
101" lecture that by working together with the government teachers can
do their part to help government slow down spending. McGuinty argues
this is the way to build confidence that will result in business
investment in Ontario, which will restore prosperity
and provide the necessary funding for social programs like health care
By extension, public health care workers and all public
sector employees should do the same. And the workers who once worked at
Caterpillar in London or Xstrata's Kidd Creek metallurgical site or the
forestry towns across the north whose jobs disappeared following such
"investment" -- what should they do?
Nod in agreement that this anti-social direction is sure to work out
The impediment to a prosperous society is not good jobs
that provide incomes at the level consistent with standards the Ontario
is capable of producing. The problem is that our highly socialized
economy is not permitted to function as it should because private
global monopoly interests control the main means
of production and only allow them to function, if at all, according to
their own narrow self-interest, not according to the social needs and
interests of society. That is the underlying factor impeding prosperity
since it creates
crisis and chaos in our economy.
Our economy is organized to serve a definite aim and
that aim has nothing to do with ensuring adequate funding for social
programs like health care and education or affordable housing or a
guaranteed livelihood at Canadian standards for all. Working people
have to draw this warranted conclusion from their
experience and on that basis, go into action to change
the situation. That is what it means to be political -- working out
what favours your interests within the context of a society that
defends the rights of all and how to bring it into being.
The truth is seen in the fact that while gross domestic
product has increased more than enough to sustain and expand the level
of funding for social programs, more and more is taken out of the
economy by the owners of capital. Likewise, more and more of the social
wealth claimed by government is taken out of circulation in the economy
and goes to servicing interest payments -- more than $11 billion in
2011 alone -- on debt that should have been considered paid off many
times over given the amount of interest paid over the years.
McGuinty's ultimatum to teachers should be broadly
discussed so that working people can come to terms with the
reality of the situation facing society. Ontario needs a new pro-social
direction for the economy to build a society fit for human beings, not
one that serves a privileged minority while all other
claims are put off as prospects for future consideration.
Pre-tax profit as % of GDP
Source: Ontario Political
Note: GDP in
crisis surpassed that of 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and
2004. Pre tax profit as % of GDP surpassed 11.39%
attained in 2000 every year, with the exception of 2001 and 2009. It reached a high of 13.9% of GDP in 2007. Every
represents approx. $5.5 billion pre-tax profits.
the Fellow-Traveler of the Capitalist System
Resisting the Attack on Teachers
Teachers Resist Anti-Social Offensive and
As reported last week in Ontario Political Forum,
that they are expected to
take a two-year wage freeze which includes keeping seniority frozen.
The announcement also includes expected changes
to the allotment and compensation for sick days.
Teachers and their unions almost immediately began to
organize to resist the government's attempt to dictate their working
lives and negate their right to decision-making. The Elementary
Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) walked away from contract talks
shortly after the announcement on March 1. Teachers
themselves have been in discussion about the developments in comparison
to their realities. They have pointed out the disinformation on
retirement payouts of unused sick days which the monopoly media have
reported being as high as $46,000. Discussion with teachers reveals
that the actual amount and how many
teachers are eligible for the payout is unclear and that it is a
distraction from the real issues. Concern has also been expressed about
the limited number of sick days each year (only six) that teachers
be compensated for based on their full salary.
Teachers are demanding a stop to the assault on their
livelihoods and on the overall public education system. They are
demanding to know what this is all about. How can it be that McGuinty
wants teachers to contribute to improvements that have been made in
Ontario's education system while taking away from
those who actually provide this education?
The announcement reflects part of the recommendations of
the Drummond Report pertaining to education, namely wage freezes, but
increases in class sizes or the elimination of full-day kindergarten.
As Ontario Political Forum has previously pointed out, this
is McGuinty and the Liberals portraying themselves
as looking out for "balance" and "good sense" (see Ontario
Political Forum, February 28, 2012 - No. 25). Yet, in the
end it is workers that are the targets of
the recommendations of the Drummond Report and the deterioration of
public institutions to open the possibility for privatization. Such is
also the case in the education
sector in other parts of the country such as in BC where ever larger
proportions of government funds are allotted for private education.
Governments across the country have stepped up the
anti-social offensive against public sector workers, in general, and
education workers, in particular. Teachers in Alberta and BC are
facing net-zero wage settlements and cuts to education funding (see TML
February 9, 2012 - No. 15 and March
28). Education workers at colleges and universities have
also been fighting against underfunding which has led to cuts to
programs and research grants. All of this is threatening quality of
public education which ultimately affects the learning conditions for
students. It is part of nation-wrecking
that has already ravaged manufacturing in Canada and is now destroying
public institutions in the name of private interests staying
competitive in the global market.
In Ontario, the anti-social offensive against workers
and people is continuing under McGuinty and it goes back to the "Social
Contract" under Bob Rae and the "Common Sense Revolution" of Mike
Harris. This anti-social offensive is part of an economic system that
cannot guarantee the rights of people by dint
of being human, in the first place, nor the instrumental role that they
play in society. Education workers in Ontario have a right to be
compensated commensurate with the important work that they do in
educating the youth. Equally, if not more important, is that teachers
should have a say in the direction of the economy
and how their roles as educators should be organized in the economy.
They must be decision makers. Only this can avoid the chaos and
uncertainty in their lives that is part of the irrationality of the
overall organization of society today.
1. Most teachers are currently
eligible for 20 days of
sick leave per year and unused sick leave accumulates to a maximum of
200-250 days, depending on the school board. At retirement teachers can
currently collect salary based on unused sick days but this amount is
unclear because the eligibility varies across
the province. The proposed changes mean that teachers will no longer be
able to use previously unused sick days (known as sick leave bank).
Each member would receive six days per year at 100 per cent salary and
short term disability for up to 24 weeks at two-thirds salary. Upon
retirement, they would no longer collect
any salary based on accumulated unused sick days.
2. "New Assault on
Teachers and Public
Education," Donna Petersen, TML Daily, February 23 - No. 23
The Only Discussion Government Wants to Hear at
Table Is "Yes" to Cuts
On March 7 and 8 there were
to be further Provincial Discussion Table
meetings between those teacher unions which did not withdraw
in protest and the government's team, led by retired Judge James
Farley, the government's chief negotiator. Teachers believed they were
negotiating the parameters of an agreement.
The Ontario English
Catholic Teachers Association
represents the 45,000 professional women and men who teach all grades
in publicly funded English Catholic schools, subsequently
issued a news release on Friday, March 9. It states that an email was
sent out by James Farley March
8 insisting: "...the government's involvement in the ongoing Provincial
Discussion Tables (PDT) was not to engage in a discussion with the
teacher associations on the parameters of a collective agreement, but
rather, to facilitate a dialogue between the teacher associations and
the association representing trustees."
First the government put out all of its draconian
publicized them widely through the media and now it is making it very
clear that it is not going to engage in any discussion about them
with the teacher organizations.
This latest communication refers the teachers'
trustee associations and school boards which have no authority. It is
government that controls the PDT process -- it created the proposal and
has control over the funding. The result is a deliberate denial of the
collective bargaining process.
Education sector bargaining is regulated under the Ontario Labour
Relations Act. Under the law most boards cannot even begin to
new collective agreements until June.
Turn the Tables!
For the last two collective
agreements for teachers there has been a PDT process. In 2004 and 2008
agreements were reached at the provincial
level on items such as salary, prep time, and benefits prior to the
start of local collective bargaining.
In 2004 the process was totally voluntary.
In 2008 they were invited to enter a voluntary process;
rules were changed part way through, and a two per cent salary penalty
was imposed on public elementary teachers.
Now in 2012 the government has used the PDT to dictate
working conditions in one fell swoop disallowing solutions in favour
of the teachers, support staff and students.
The PDTs were set up to facilitate
discussion in working out solutions to the wages and working conditions
of teachers as a voluntary arrangement between the teachers and the
government. It has been turned into a tool to dictate austerity
against their interests. Who needs that? Turn the tables!
Teachers Reject Government Parameters
Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), represents more than 76,000
teachers and educational professionals in public elementary schools.
ETFO has refused to attend further talks due to the government agenda
of stripping the collective
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
more than 60,000 members. They include educational assistants,
continuing education teachers and instructors, psychologists,
secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant
support personnel, attendance counsellors
and many other education professionals.
Due to the blatant disrespect of the collective
the OSSTF has immediately withdrawn its support for and participation
in the following Ministry of Education working tables:
- Assessment Advisory Council
- Curriculum Advisory Committee
- English Language Learners Advisory Group
- Early Learning Plan
- Expansion of Ontario Teacher Education Program
- Growing Success
- Healthy Schools Working Table
- Learning to 18
- Math Work Group
- Managing Information for Student Achievement Advisory Committee
- Ministry of Education Partnership Table
- Special Education
- Student Achievement Division Working Table
- Teacher Leadership and Learning Program
- Teacher Performance Appraisal/Annual Learning Plan Networking Group
- Teacher Tripartite Advisory Committee/Support Workers Advisory
Another organization affected by the government
is l'Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens
(AEFO), which is the French-language labour organization whose members
work in Ontario's French-language, Catholic and public, elementary and
secondary schools and in
other French-language establishments in Ontario. AEFO has some 10,000
members who work in about 450 schools and other workplaces.
The government hiring of an external legal team with no
knowledge of the education sector to deliver a demand for a two-year
wage freeze and other measures that have a direct negative impact on
education workers' rights and on the collective bargaining process, is
an assault on the entire education
Teachers Speak Out in Defence of their Rights
In a petition to Premier
Dalton McGuinty entitled "Stop
the Austerity Proposal for All, OSSTF and ETFO Bargaining Units,"
teachers are stating their opposition to the attacks on their wages,
working conditions and benefits. The petition provides detailed
explanations of the austerity measures:
Freezing wages for two years and salary grids for
example means that if a teacher was eligible to move up on the salary
grid, they would have to forgo that for at least two years. After the
wage freeze, they would not be given the opportunity to catch up to the
correct position on the payment grid. If a teacher would have become
for a pay increase (within the pay freeze time frame), they would not
be allowed to receive that increase in pay.
There would also be a restructuring of salary grids.
Usually, teachers get an increase in pay for pre-determined
qualifications. For example, completing a certain
amount of years as a teacher or taking special courses would be
considered an acceptable reason to apply for an increase in pay.
McGuinty wishes to review the salary grids with the intention of
limiting how experience and qualifications are recognized in moving
through the new grid. This would make it more difficult for teachers to
receive pay commensurate with qualifications, education and experience
Teachers graduate from university and teachers college
with huge debts and will be seriously affected by the freezing of the
wages and the altering of their positions on the grid. It takes ten
years for teachers to reach the top of the salary grid. This puts a
heavy burden on new teachers. Teachers spend thousands
of dollars and untold hours every year to improve their qualifications.
There would be a freeze on retirement gratuity
entitlement. The sick leave bank and retirement service, salary and
eligibility would be frozen as of August 31, 2012. Each member would
only get six sick days per year at 100 per cent salary and then, short
disability for up to 24 weeks at two-thirds salary, none of which
is accumulated or carried forward.
There will be an Ontario Teacher Pension Plan valuation
with a view to not increase the government's defined benefit
contribution. The wage freeze
and the altering of the grid system will have an effect on the
contributions to the pension fund. Retired teachers are discussing how
these measures are going to affect the fund and
teachers security in retirement.
What Teachers Had to Say
- "We did not cause this recession! Collect from where
money really is. I have to spend my own money for supplies for my
students in my classroom. When the children are sent to school sick and
we in turn get sick as we take care of them, why should we
sick days taken away from us?"
- "McGuinty presented issues to the public in a tone to
bad mouth and blame teachers for the economic crisis. This very rude
report was done before any negotiations which was very unprofessional
- "These cuts hurt the most vulnerable in our profession
-- single parents, teachers at the bottom of the pay grid, teachers
with health issues, and others facing financial difficulties.
Especially for the teachers of Toronto who received 2 per cent less
teachers in Ontario during the last round of negotiations The
pay freeze, the grid freeze and the stripping of sick days can be
taken as none other than a completely hostile gesture towards the
- "Research and policy have helped to improve student
performance over the last eight years, this would not have happened
the commitment and the countless hours of hard work above and beyond
the call of duty by front-line teachers."
- "I would rather invest in teachers and students than
rely on the faulty trickle-down economics of corporations."
- "Cutting education and not the cost of war (fighter
jets alone cost Canadian taxpayers over $30 billion), eHealth scandal
(over $1 billion wasted), ORNGE air ambulance scandal, G20 cost
taxpayers $1.1 billion in security alone, etc...No wonder there's no
money to pay the salaries of the people who actually
work and contribute positively to society!"
- "Teachers need more skills and have to deal with more
special needs students, have fewer parents volunteering and spend more
of their own money to supplement lack of resources in our schools."
Teachers are saying that it is the government that is
responsible for the pending unrest in the province's educational system
and they demand that the government do its duty to ensure that the
educational needs of the society is not an option but a requirement.
For the educational system to be maintained it must
be funded and this means funding the teachers whose working conditions
are the learning conditions of our children.
The Battle for Toronto
Ford Regime's Attack on City Workers Continues
The alliance on Toronto
City Council supporting Mayor Rob Ford's
minority administration has continued to unravel around the issue of
control over the spending of $8.4 billion in provincial rapid transit
funding. Due to action by a majority of city councillors, Ford lost his
control over the Toronto Transit
Commission. This does not, however, mean that the Ford city-wrecking
has been stopped. It must be remembered that many other aspects of the
Ford agenda continue to be pushed, particularly against the thousands
of city workers who provide the public social programs, services and
carry out other city functions.
From late 2011 Ford's executive has been exerting
upon the city workers in order to impose terms gutting their collective
and degrading their security and well-being. The workers' resistance
has to date limited the anti-worker aims of the regime in terms of the
agreement finalized in February
with the outside workers of CUPE Local 416, even though it involved
concessions, including on job security.
The same pressure continues to be exerted against about
workers of CUPE Local 79 and 2,400 of Local 4948 of the Toronto Public
Library. In the wake of recent Ministry of Labour "No Board" reports,
legal lockout or strike could take place on March 18 for the library
workers and a week later for Local
In addition to the city's continuing attack on job
benefits, seniority and other work rules, of primary concern to both
locals is huge and growing use of part-time rather than permanent
staff. After recent job cuts, the library system now has more temporary
than permanent workers, many of whom
do not qualify for benefits or work sufficient hours to provide a
living, while library usage continues to grow. Local 79 is facing these
same issues. Among other things, Local 79 is resisting the city's
to eliminate seniority rules governing allocation of hours of work to
part-time workers as part of its push
to give free reign to management dictate over workers.
The developing struggle of the workers and people of
the anti-social offensive unleashed by the Ford regime is causing it
difficulty and some setbacks. The continuing resistance of the city
workers is an integral part of this fight, one that is a fight for the
rights and well-being of all. As such, it
deserves the support of all of us.
All Out to Support Library Workers!
On March the 1, the Ontario
Ministry of Labour issued a
"no board" report on the negotiations currently going on between the
Toronto Public Library (TPL) Board and the CUPE Local 4948 which
represents some 2,400 library workers. The current contract between the
local and the Board ended on December
31. The "no board" report came at the request of the union because
"negotiations were at an impasse," according to Maureen O'Reilly,
President of Local 4948. "No-board" essentially means that the Ministry
of Labour concludes that the mediation underway has failed and after 18
days, the respective parties are allowed to lockout or strike.
The members of Local 4948 have already voted 91 per cent
favour of a strike to back up their demands for a fair contract that
ensures job security, working conditions, wages and pensions, and
against the City of Toronto's demand for concessions and cuts to
programs, as part of the Ford administration's anti-social
offensive. Library workers will be in a legal position to strike as of
As part of its campaign to meet its budget, the TPL
Board recently made the decision to offer private sector advertising in
some of its publicity material. There is a danger that this is the
first step toward privatizing other aspects of public library services
later the entire Toronto Public Library service, as has taken
place in several cities in the United States and elsewhere, which has
resulted in underfunding of programs, cutting of programs and the
imposition of user fees that have undermined the public library system.
In the face of massive public resistance, including a
letter-writing campaign and the involvement of several prominent
authors, the Ford administration was forced to back down from the deep
cuts that were being proposed for TPL in the budget last year, and at
the September 26, 2011 City Council meeting, the library
system was mostly spared. Now the city is coming after the library
The Toronto Public Library is the largest public library
system in Canada and in 2008 reported the largest circulation per
capita of any other public library in the world. It has the largest
level of use in terms of circulations of materials and visitors within
North America. There are 98 branches and over 12 million
items in its collection. It is noteworthy that the Toronto Public
Library system was established by the workers' organization the
Institute in 1830 to help the workers raise their level of education
The Toronto Public Library workers provide many services
that are needed by the people of Toronto. For example, children's
librarians provide books and provide many programs that engage children
and their families. The unemployed and the homeless, are able to use
the services of the library and computers
to email, do research and to job-search. The public can borrow books
and other materials that contribute to raising the general level of
culture of Torontonians. The library workers also organize public
readings and lectures that are available free or minimal cost.
In the face of the attacks by the Rob Ford
administration against the Toronto Public Library and its workers, all
Torontonians must support the Toronto library workers and their just
demands for wages and benefits commensurate with the work they do in a
modern city like Toronto.
City Council Calls for Exemption to Neoliberal
Trade Agreement with Europe
Committee of Toronto City Council expressing its concerns about the
Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
and asking for municipalities to be consulted in the negotiations came
back to the full council.
At the council meeting Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who
along with Councillor Glenn de Baeremaeker, originally brought the
motion on CETA before council, introduced an amendment to re-include a
request to the Province of Ontario that Toronto be exempted from CETA
should the agreement be signed.
The motion as amended was approved by the City Council
by a vote of 35 to 5. The motion, a "Request to protect City of Toronto
interests and existing powers in any trade agreement signed between the
Government of Canada and the European Union" states:
"1. City Council request the Province of Ontario issue a
clear, permanent exemption of the City of Toronto from the
Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
(CETA) and that it otherwise protect the powers of municipalities,
hospitals, school boards, utilities, universities
and other sub-federal agencies to use public procurement, services and
investment as tools to create local jobs and otherwise support local
"2. City Council request the Federal Government to
protect the powers of the City -- to create local jobs, protect the
environment, and provide services and programs as it sees fit -- from
any restrictions to those powers in the CETA.
"3. City Council request the Province of Ontario to
explain the scope and content of trade negotiations with the EU,
including the details of its procurement, services and investment
offers; and to protect City of Toronto's interests and existing powers
in any trade agreement signed between the Government of
Canada and the European Union, with particular attention to:
a. The low procurement thresholds of $340,600 for goods
and services and $8.5 million for construction
b. Local procurement needs
c. Dispute resolution mechanism"
The Toronto resolution was passed days before Federation
of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Board of Directors meeting in
Kitchener, Ontario which took place from March 7-10. At this meeting
Canada's lead CETA negotiator briefed councillors and mayors from
across Canada on the state of the EU trade
talks. The FCM board members were also to consider a motion from the
Union of British Columbia Municipalities to take water services out of
the CETA and other Canadian trade agreements.
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