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April 18, 2012 - No. 32

Organize and Resist

All Out for the April 21 Day of Action Against Cuts!

Saturday, April 21 -- 3:00-5:00 pm
Queen's Park, Toronto
For further information visit the OFL website
See also the page for the Day of Action on Facebook

Organize and Resist
All Out for the April 21 Day of Action Against Cuts!

Discussion on the Ontario Budget
Jobs Must Be Recognized as a Right, Not a "Policy Issue"
Oppose "Job Creation" as a Scheme to Pay the Rich - Dan Cerri
Defend the Public Interest in the Electric Power Sector - Jim Nugent

Letter to the Editor from Northern Ontario
Private Interests Make Off with Tens of Millions at St. Marys Paper

Privatization and Wrecking of Public Infrastructure
No to Privatization, Poverty Wages and Municipal Despots! - David Greig 
Northerners Speak Out to Save Ontario Northland

Attacks on Public Education
Toronto School Board $100 Million Short - Silvia Etts
Figleaf Promise to Retrain Education Assistants - Christine Nugent
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Responds to Government Misinformation

Special Issue of Workers' Forum

Organize and Resist

All Out for the April 21 Day of Action Against Cuts!

On April 2, in response to the Progressive Conservatives' demands for a mandatory two-year public sector wage freeze, Premier McGuinty said, "[O]ur commitment to Ontarians is that we will enter into collective bargaining with our public sector partners. We've also made it clear that, should we not achieve the result that we need to achieve in order to abide by our fiscal plan, we'll then consider any and all measures necessary to ensure that that happens. But at the outset, I want to make it perfectly clear: Our intention is to respect the collective bargaining process in Ontario."

In other words, the right to collective bargaining will be respected in name only, not if it is actually exercised. Workers should discuss the significance of the position taken by the Ontario Premier. It shows that the mechanisms established in law so that the workers can defend their interests are being destroyed. Start by mobilizing for the April 21 Ontario Day of Action Against Cuts! What is happening to Ontario is unacceptable. Workers do not support a budget that lowers even further the living standards of the most vulnerable. They cannot accept a budget that has as its cornerstone that public sector workers must submit "voluntarily" to a wage freeze and other concessions or have it imposed legislatively! It is an affront to the dignity of the working class and people.

For all the talk about democracy, the government has no mandate for this budget. Even the minority of electors who voted Liberal did not vote for austerity or cuts. But the fate of this budget is not in our hands. The working class and people have no say and they have to solve the problem of how to end the dictate of the financial oligarchy over the society. To make themselves rich, the oligarchs have declared that Ontario must eliminate the deficit immediately, by 2017! The choice for the people is: austerity with enthusiasm or austerity with reluctance. The latter includes the imposition of austerity with "balance."

The establishment has set the agenda and declares that this is the choice. The workers' movement is again under tremendous pressure not to develop its own independent politics. Workers are told that if they bring down the Liberal government, the danger is that a Hudak/Harper regime is waiting in the wings. Why not work for an alternative that favours the working class and people?

Society is at a turning point. The necessity is to build an effective Workers' Opposition that can become the government. That is the problem the advanced forces in the workers' movement must take up for solution. The working class has to organize itself as an independent political force with its own demands and pro-social agenda for society.

The key is building Groups of Writers and Disseminators (GWDs) amongst one's peers in the workplaces, first and foremost, or in one's economic sector to discuss what is happening to society and to set their own agendas and work to achieve these agendas. This includes popularizing the work and views of the GWDs. This is key because in setting their own agendas, workers activate the human factor/social consciousness and vest decision-making power in themselves. Only in this way can they exercise control over the implementation of what they themselves have decided. It is the crucial step forward from merely reacting to what governments are doing in our name.

All Out for the April 21 Day of Action Against Cuts!

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Discussion on the Ontario Budget

Jobs Must Be Recognized as a Right,
Not a "Policy Issue"

Premier McGuinty and his government argue that they are committed to job creation and that their budget for 2012-13 reflects this commitment. On April 2 in the legislature, McGuinty said: "A big dimension of our budget has to do with jobs: creating more jobs and building a stronger foundation for growth and prosperity." The unemployed and those who cannot find permanent and decent employment want to know what this means when it is not consistent with their realities. They are demanding that words be backed by deeds.

The McGuinty government claims that the budget will create or protect 170,000 jobs. Ontarians want to know exactly what these jobs will be. Will they be full-time jobs? Will they be permanent? Will they provide benefits so that people can live healthier lives and not feel that a sudden medical emergency will jeopardize their finances? Will they be protected when they are older with a defined pension based on the work they carried out for the economy and society today? Workers do not want a "job creation" plan that simultaneously eliminates jobs in some sectors of the economy. They do not want a "balanced approach" based on "difficult choices" as described by McGuinty which are euphemisms for attacking workers' wages and the services that Ontarians rely on in the name of "job creation."

Jobs and a livelihood must be recognized as a right, not a policy objective. People need work to sustain themselves and their communities. The ability to work, not withstanding those who cannot due to physical or other disabilities, is an inherent quality of being human and it therefore must be recognized as a modern right. Paying the monopolies is not a solution. There isn't a monopoly operation in Ontario that doesn't already receive public money in the name of supporting investment to create jobs. It does not advance the recognition of the right of all to jobs and a livelihood. It serves only to advance the trend of politicizing the same private interests which see workers as a cost of production and shutdowns, layoffs and lockouts etc. as short-term ways of increasing their profit margins.

Private interests already benefit from their ownership of the socialized economy and now governments and political parties want to give them more wealth produced by workers in the form of tax incentives. It must not pass! Workers are discussing what job creation should look like. They should be involved in deciding the necessary work for their industries. They know best these requirements to develop a planned economy that does not disrupt people's individual lives or the economy as a whole. A Worker's Opposition in the Legislature is also needed that would require companies to keep production at a sufficient level to ensure stable employment and for the economy to pay for social programs and other necessities. If they do not hold up these responsibilities, companies should be converted into public enterprises that must guarantee work as a right.

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Oppose "Job Creation" as a Scheme to Pay the Rich

All of the political parties in the Legislature, including the governing Liberals, use job creation as a ploy to give more wealth to the monopolies. This must be opposed by Ontarians who have a different view of job creation as a necessity in their lives.

Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives argue for lower taxes for businesses which will, according to them, provide incentives for businesses to hire more workers. In response, McGuinty defends his government's tax incentives for businesses: "I remind my honourable colleague of our record when it comes to reducing corporate taxes, making our business tax environment all the more competitive for Ontario businesses... [W]e remain, in all of North America after California, the most attractive destination for foreign direct investment." This is the same approach that witnessed payouts to monopolies like Caterpillar in London and Navistar in Chatham, both of which closed their operations leaving thousands unemployed and communities in shambles.

The NDP have their own proposal to pay the rich which they present as tax credits for companies that create jobs. They want government to pay 10 per cent of the salary for new hires in their first year to a maximum of $5,000.

Let's be clear where the money for this policy would come from. There is no way to meet expenditures other than claiming realized social product from the socialized economy. The money to pay for the tax credit would come from taxes paid by workers that last year might have gone to employ or pay benefits for workers in the public sector. Through the tax credit, this money will be redirected into the hands of monopolies and other private interests in the name of "job creation."

All of the "job creation policies" have to be analyzed in the context of the private ownership of the economy by the monopolies and the politicization of their private interests by governments and political parties. Each party proposes their own way of recognizing private right and their quest to maximize profit but all have the same negative results for workers and the economy. Experience shows that giving money to the monopolies thorough bailouts and tax breaks does not guarantee jobs. Policies such as tax credits must also be opposed because they take wealth that is produced by workers in the socialized economy and give it to private monopoly interests. The monopolies want to lay claim to more wealth through these government subsidies to make up for their declining profits. Workers must demand that this be stopped!

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Defend the Public Interest in the Electric Power Sector

In the Ontario 2012 Budget, the Ontario government committed itself to launching "a comprehensive review of the electricity sector and its various agencies." This is a promise to the financial oligarchy that Ontario will continue down the path of further privatizing Ontario's electricity sector, to the detriment of the important public interests and interests of the working class at stake in this highly socialized economic sector. For the working class, the electrical power sector needs to be organized so this essential service is available to households at affordable rates and so it contributes to the even development of the economy, especially manufacturing and other goods producing sectors.

To sections of the international bankers and allied monopolies in fossil fuels, construction/engineering and technology, Canada's electrical power generation, transmission and distribution system represents a fantastic revenue stream of $28 billion a year in rates paid by industrial/commercial users and households. Ontario's electric power system is one of the jewels in this prize with a revenue stream of $9 billion a year, a third of the national total. In Ontario, as in other parts of Canada, there is a fierce scramble underway among the rich to capture this revenue stream and to extract from it as much tribute as possible.

A recent Globe and Mail article promoting electrical system privatization in Ontario cites "inside sources" which report the McGuinty government is working on plans for opening up the municipal power distribution companies (LDCs) to privatization and selling off Hydro One which is responsible for over 90 per cent of electricity transmission. Local electrical utilities and Hydro One were set up with corporate structures by the Harris government with the aim of later privatizing them. The McGuinty government according to the media is now preparing to complete this process, using the current fiscal deficit crisis as an excuse to realize the ambitions of the rich in this sector.

Ontario Hydro, which used to generate and transmit almost all electrical energy in the province, and municipal electrical utilities were cash cows for financiers and other monopolies even before the Harris government began privatizing electricity in 1998. Debt financing of the system enabled the financial oligarchy to extract billions from the economy as bond premiums over the last hundred years. Billions more were extracted as profits by electrical sector engineering, construction and equipment manufacturing monopolies. Privatization allows the rich to impose additional tribute on the electrical system in the form of demanding the going rate of return on ownership equity.

This can be seen in the way that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) calculates the rates imposed on electricity ratepayers of transmission and distribution companies. The OEB is a quasi-judicial government body that regulates the amount electric and natural gas transmission and distribution companies can charge customers. OEB regulators base charges allowed on what it calls "recovery of the cost of service." OEB allows utilities to include in cost of service an amount for what it calls the "cost of capital." In cost of capital OEB includes: short-term debt financing; long-term debt financing and a return on equity, with ratios set for each.

The standing order of the OEB for 2012 on the values to be used in calculating sets out the following: short-term debt interest 2.08 per cent; long-term debt interest 4.41 percent and Return on Equity 9.12 per cent. The Return on Equity permitted is 4.71 per cent greater than the interest bondholders get on long-term bonds. Financiers can double their take compared to just being bondholders. The additional tribute financiers can extract from ratepayers by owning the utility is the motivation for privatization. They get to skin the ratepayers twice, once as bondholders and again as owners of equity in the utility.

As matters stand now, even though all transmission and distribution utilities are set up as corporations, most are still publicly-owned. The Ontario government is the sole shareholder of Hydro One. Municipal governments in almost all cases are the sole shareholders of local distribution utilities. Because of this, the return-on-equity portion of the electricity rates stays within the public sector as does control of the activities of the utility.

At Toronto Hydro for example, the return on equity results in the City of Toronto (the shareholder) receiving $25 million a year in dividends that the city can apply to public purposes. City councillors also sit on the Board of Directors. This public benefit and control of electrical utilities is what the Ontario government is planning to change.

Opening up the ownership of Hydro One and the LDCs to privatization will allow the return on equity to be claimed by the financial oligarchy, removing funds from use for public benefit and from the economy. As well, it will allow private investors rather than public officials to control the activities of the utilities.

In the conditions of the current global economic and financial crisis, electrical energy sector privatization is particularly attractive because profit on the investment is guaranteed. Privatization is advertised as being about "competition, open markets and private sector efficiency," but in fact privatization of the electrical system is based on guaranteed returns on ownership equity. This guarantee is not a policy, but a fundamental right guaranteed by the courts including the Supreme Court.

In 2009 the OEB conducted a review of its pricing calculation system to bail out electric and natural gas utilities following the crisis created in 2008 by global financial swindling. One of Ontario's few private transmission utilities, Great Lakes Power (owned by Brookfield Asset Management), was an intervenor. In its submission it said, "The Court has found that the regulator has an 'absolute' obligation to set rates which allow for cost recovery and a fair and reasonable return. The Board can not adjust the return on equity to mitigate an impact on rates. The return on equity is set independent of rate impact and is based on factors that have been discussed thoroughly in this proceeding."

The OEB decided to reset the rate calculation and in its reasons supported this demand by Brookfield and others that monopoly right to the going rate of return on equity trumps public right to affordable services from utilities. "Further, the Board notes that the Federal Court of Appeal was clear that the overall Return on Equity must be determined solely on the basis of a company's cost of equity capital and that 'the impact of any resulting toll increase is an irrelevant consideration in that determination,'" the OEB said.

Neither the courts nor the OEB will uphold public right over monopoly right in the electricity transmission and distribution system despite the important public interests at stake. To them the public interest is an "irrelevant consideration" compared to the right to profits. As Ontario's anti-people anti-social government prepares to complete the sell-off of public ownership of electrical power, the task of resisting private interests and asserting public interests falls on the shoulders of the Workers' Opposition.

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Letter to the Editor from Northern Ontario

Private Interests Make Off with Tens of Millions in
Public Money at St. Marys Paper

St. Marys Paper in Sault Ste. Marie has been forced to close forever -- on March 26, an Ontario court gave authorization for the sale of the plant to a numbered company. St. Marys demise puts a different face on all the talk about creating or saving jobs through giving incentives to business. It served as a poster child for handing tens of millions in public funds to private interests. And when the final nail is being driven into St. Marys' coffin the same politicians whose careers have been built on that pipeline to government cash, are right there, pledging more yet.

This is to be the legacy of the governments and politicians currently in power in the Soo. For the employees, the community and the taxpayers, the loss of St. Marys is very costly and unforgivable.

The workers directly affected may have lost the battle for their former jobs, but we must now fight for control of our resources and our economy.

St. Marys was forced into bankruptcy by International Forest Products (IFP) which had exclusive distributing rights for the supercalendared paper the mill produced. St. Marys owed IFP $3.21 million from a loan agreement and $4.4 million under a pulp supply contract. The numbered company that bought St. Marys' assets reportedly paid IFP something less than the $7.6 million; however it is not even certain that the mill had received $4.4 million in pulp from IFP -- only that it had a supply contract of that value.

The real treachery is that the Ontario government not IFP was the largest secured creditor. The owners of St. Marys Paper had received $25 million in start up and capital development loans from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines just a few years ago. Other local suppliers -- uninsured creditors -- were owed $9.6 million. The city had waived or been forced to rebate St. Marys more than $1 million in tax revenues in recent years.

The workers in particular have been fleeced yet again in this second bankruptcy money grab in less than a decade. The union, deemed an unsecured creditor, is owed more than $10 million in severance and vacation pay for its members. As part of the sale, the employment of the 300 current mill workers will be officially terminated the day before the closing date.

Bankruptcy proceedings have effectively flipped St. Marys assets from one unnamed cabal of owners to another, a numbered company whose primary interest was to secure the license for a hydro co-generation plant and a 10-year power purchase agreement that the Ontario government had offered to St. Marys in order to "save jobs." There are no jobs at St. Marys so why is the co-gen permit even on the table?

If the aim of the millions upon millions the government of Ontario handed over to private interests like the owners of St. Marys Paper was to "save" and "create" jobs then it should have been turned into a public enterprise so that it guaranteed the interests of the workers, the community and society.


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Privatization and Wrecking of Public Infrastructure

No to Privatization, Poverty Wages
and Municipal Despots!

At the April 11 Toronto City Council meeting the city-wrecking Ford administration encountered another obstacle to its agenda. By a vote of 29 to 12, council subjected contracts with private cleaning companies to a council vote. Previously, such contracts involving less than $20 million would have been dealt with by the city manager responding to Ford's executive. This prevents the regime from moving rapidly to contract out further cleaning functions, or renew an existing contract, and raises the prospect these contracts may be blocked by a council vote. The majority the Ford regime seemed to hold in council one year ago has disintegrated this year on several issues.

As part of implementing its infamous program of contracting out, privatizing, selling or cutting "anything that's not nailed down", in 2011 the Ford administration had privatized the jobs of about 100 city cleaners at police stations, replacing them with a private contractor. Another 900 cleaners and janitors at other city facilities were targeted for elimination. Cleaners working for the private contractors or the subcontractors they often engage usually pay not much more than minimum wage rates with few if any benefits, are not often unionized, and are notorious for other abuses, while those covered by the city union contracts earn about $20 to $22 per hour with benefits.

Ford regime figures like the Mayor's brother Doug Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and the media organs at their service reacted to the vote with predictable outrage. According to them, when it comes to city functions that are not being cut outright, the goal is to provide them to private profiteers that remunerate workers at a bare minimum. As before, all is justified in the name of abstract taxpayers, fictions unconcerned about the effect of low wage rates, lack of jobs, benefits, public services, or the general well-being of society.

Faced with resistance and setbacks, these anti-social elements have taken to venting their rage against any individuals or social forces who oppose them in any way, including former allies or hangers on. They are all the enemy, worthies like Holyday, the Fords, et al., clearly imply, so away with them all -- the social activists, unionists, bicyclists! We, anti-social warriors, champions of austerity, private monopoly right, the rich (the taxpayers who really count), must rule unopposed! How dare they prevent us from disposing of labour at poverty wages!

The residents of Toronto, the poor, the middle strata, students, youth and the workers who create the wealth and provide the services that sustain the city and society have, through their struggle against the Ford regime, helped put obstacles in its path, helped erode its domination of municipal politics and helped expose its despotic essence. Let us advance this struggle for the rights of all and establish ourselves as the decision-makers, not this band of rogues who would relegate workers and society to poverty for the profit of the very rich!

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Northerners Speak Out to Save Ontario Northland

The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) is a Crown Corporation that provides vital telecommunications, inter-city bus as well as freight and passenger rail infrastructure to northern Ontario communities. On March 23, the Ontario government announced plans to wind down operations, privatizing those aspects of the Crown corporation that are profitable and destroying the rest. Premier McGuinty justified this wrecking activity saying the ONTC is a failing operation with declining revenue and ridership.

McGuinty's claims are false, but more important is that the loss of the vital public infrastructure organized under the umbrella of the ONTC would be a serious blow to the viability of many northern Ontario communities and industries.

The unions representing employees of the ONTC's operations have spoken out and set the record straight on McGuinty's misrepresentation. Brian Kelly, spokesperson for the General Chairpersons' Association (GCA) of the unionized ONTC workers explained that "ridership has increased year over year in all passenger services" -- 10 per cent in 2010/11 and another 16 per cent this year. Even despite the demise of mining in Timmins and of the forest industry across the north, the ONTC was generating seven per cent more revenue in 2011/12 than in 2003 when McGuinty first came to power.

That said, the issue is not simply one of whether the public infrastructure is profitable or not. There are fundamental principles at issue. Public infrastructure -- be it the services provided by the ONTC or mail service provided by Canada Post or access to public health care, etc. -- is critical to nation-building, to the existence of Canadian standards for one and all east, west, north and south. The McGuinty Liberals are very self-serving when they argue for federal transfer payments at levels necessary to support country-wide Canadian standards for funding of social services, but deny the same principle when it comes to investing in public infrastructure for the north.

The principle applies whether the issue is access to sanitation, fresh water, transportation, or telecommunication services, etc. The GCA is calling for all Ontario residents to have equal support for provincially-funded infrastructure such as inter-city passenger service at Canadian standards, without distinction, whether in the south or the north.

Northern Ontario United Against Privatization of Ontario Northland

Northern Ontario is speaking with one voice against the McGuinty Liberals' decision to dismantle the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, privatize whatever is profitable and otherwise wreck the public rail, bus and telecommunications infrastructure this Crown Corporation provides to the north. Below are some examples of where northerners stand:

George Payne, Chairman of the Ontario Northland Pensioners' Association (ONPA) said he was shocked. "They give us assurances that pensioners have nothing to worry about. That sets off alarm bells... We're unhappy with the way the [Ontario Northland Railway] has treated pensioners." The ONPA was formed in 1999 to recover $100 million that they say was improperly removed from the pension surplus by the ONTC to pay for retirements between 1996 and 2004. The lawsuit continues.

Alan Spacek, Kapuskasing Mayor and President of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), immediately asked that this decision be rescinded until some form of proper study and consultation with Northerners -- both citizens and industries -- can be undertaken. "We ask that the Province put a two year moratorium on this decision while we consult on the best ways to proceed."

Peter Politis, Mayor of Cochrane said 1,000 jobs between Cochrane and North Bay are at risk. Cochrane was established as a rail town and has a rich history associated with the ONTC. "We've worked hard to create a positive economic environment in our Community and our region ... [T]he last thing we want to hear is something like this."

David Plourde, Kapuskasing Deputy Mayor and former ONTC commissioner, said to divest the ONR is essentially divesting Northern Ontario because "the ONTC was developed to help northern Ontario." "Now is the time he said for northerners to stand together," he added. "In my opinion, the northern communities should band together and purchase the ONR because there is a need and there is room for growth," he said.

Tom Laughren, Timmins' Mayor, expressed dismay and disappointment with the McGuinty Liberals, citing the many times he had travelled to Queen’s Park to discuss development, never for a moment imagining what the government was actually planning.

The Timmins Chamber of Commerce is also advising the government to reverse this decision.

Madeleine Tremblay Mayor of the Township of Fauquier-Strickland (Cochrane District) said, "Between the Far North Act, the Planning Act, reduction in wood allocations to the forest industry, the woodland caribou and wolverine habitat protection plans and all other rules, regulations and acts that work against a prosperous Northern Ontario, it is enough evidence that the Liberal government wants to drive people and investment out and away from Northern Ontario."

Al McDonald, Mayor of North Bay, pledged the city's unwavering support for the fight to overturn the decision to divest the ONTC. Each councillor at a recent city council meeting promised the standing-room-only crowd that they stand behind the employees and that the ONTC is not for sale.

The North Bay Chamber of Commerce offered $5,000 out of their reserves to help ONTC employees mobilize public opinion against the destruction of ONTC public infrastructure.

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Attacks on Public Education

Toronto School Board $100 Million Short

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) held a special meeting April 4 and a regular general meeting April 11 to put forward recommendations for cuts to programs, teachers and education workers. The cuts are intended for "the TDSB to meet its legislative responsibility to balance the 2012-2013 budget." The final decision will take place in a budget committee vote sometime in June.

Inadequate provincial funding has put the Toronto school system in a $100 million deficit. The Minister of Education Laurel Broten refuses to acknowledge the reality and insists "they have the fiscal means to be able to deliver high quality public education in the city of Toronto." Broten visited the TDSB offices the day before the first meeting to put pressure on the administrators to balance the budget.

The board's proposal is to implement job cuts for those employees who play an essential part in the delivery of quality education of which the minister speaks. They are the regular program educational assistants (EAs), special education and aquatics supports, school office staff, caretakers, school-based safety monitors, secondary teachers, elementary and secondary vice principals, and administrative staff.

School employees, their unions and members of the public attended the meetings showing resistance to these regressive actions. Some people left the meeting in disgust at the decisions being made. Several trustees spoke against the cuts and opposed the balancing of the budget on the backs of the workers and voted against them. They called on the TDSB administration to resist the government's austerity measures outlined in the Ontario budget.

The action taken by the TDSB does not provide a way out to the funding crisis that the boards face. School boards across the province alongside the teachers, education workers, their organizations and the communities they serve must take a firm stand against cuts and concessionary measures. They are not solutions. Governments must take up their responsibility of ensuring quality education as a right.

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Figleaf Promise to Retrain Education Assistants

The Toronto District School Board has recommended cutting over 200 education assistants (EAs). EAs assist in keeping students engaged in the range of activities that take place in the learning environment. They assist the supervising teacher with preparatory work. They are an extra pair of eyes and hands and are invaluable to the smooth functioning of the active, fast-paced work environment. They contribute to student safety. So who is it that is deciding to remove them from the classroom?

The Board is trying to head off resistance by saying it plans to retrain the EAs. The union says: "some of the trustees and senior staff hid behind a fig leaf of retraining." They will lose their jobs and have to take a two-year course to then be allocated to kindergarten classrooms as Early Childhood Educators. While there are promises of financial support, they will incur costs, fees and in some cases debt. The other two "options" are to accept a severance package or to enter into a bumping process which would possibly mean waiting up to two years to be recalled to work.

All school boards in the province are preparing budgets in an environment where governments have failed to provide adequate funding formulas for years. The ministry allocates funding to each board using a formula that's based on student enrolment and the unique needs of the students in each board. The number of schools, their distribution and their physical condition are also factors. Boards use this money to make the local decisions needed to educate their students. They do this by funding and staffing schools, designing programs to meet the needs of their students and fixing, maintaining and building schools.

The funding formula is starving the education system of adequate resources to provide all students with appropriate educational programming that supports their participation in the academic and social life of their school. This creates fertile ground for the elimination of the public system as we know it and sets up conditions for parents to seek quality education elsewhere outside the public system. This would further drain it of funds and ultimately open the door to charter schools and the privatization of education.

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Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Responds to Government Misinformation

Sam Hammond, the President of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) held a press conference April 12 to defend his organization's decision to withdraw from the Provincial Bargaining Table following what he said were "provocative and unprecedented comments" made by Education Minister Laurel Broten on April 9.

Minister Broten threatened the teachers indicating that if they do not come back to the table they may jeopardize gains they have made in the past.

The teachers' collective agreements expire on August 31, 2012.

"We want to negotiate renewals to those agreements that ensure peace and stability; respectful workplaces, and a good learning environment for students." Hammond said. "The Ontario Labour Relations Act [OLRA] sets out the longstanding rules for collective bargaining in the education sector. We have successfully negotiated local agreements in good times and even in some not so good times in the past. We are fully prepared to bargain under the OLRA starting in June."

He explained that the voluntary provincial discussion process and the parameters the Government has tabled are outside of the legal frame work for negotiations, that it was voluntary.

"We indicated to the Minister that we will exercise our right to bargain under the OLRA as the law provides and requires. Since that time, a lot of misinformation has been spread about our decision. Let me set the record straight.

"First, as I said to the Minister prior to her press conference, and as ETFO has repeatedly told Government officials, the narrow parameters tabled by the Government for provincial discussions -- which involve not only wage freezes but substantial compensation rollbacks and reductions -- are destructive, ask too much of teachers and single them out. If we are restricted to discussing only the government's proposal, that is not true negotiations.

"Second, we expect the government to include on its team representatives who are experienced in the education sector; who understand what happens in today's classrooms and schools, and who have experience in teacher negotiations. Bankruptcy lawyers are expensive. They know how to slash budgets but they don't necessarily understand the impact on kids, teachers, and the education system. Just from that initial meeting, it is clear that they do not understand the education sector nor the complexities involved in teacher bargaining.

"Third, there are no established ground rules for these proposed provincial discussions. It's pretty basic really. The OLRA sets out the rules for teacher bargaining. If the government wants to engage in a provincial discussion instead of bargaining as the law provides, we need to know the rules before we start."

In defence of his members he concluded:

"For teachers as a matter of law and practice, collective bargaining has always taken place with local school boards, with each party free to assess and determine the priorities and trade-offs that make most sense to them. This centrally imposed process with rigid predetermined parameters is no substitute for collective bargaining.

"Bullying behaviour and threats to legislate are no way to demonstrate respect for teachers or the collective bargaining process. When we bargain locally, we know the ground rules and what is on the table. If the government expects us to bargain provincially, the rules must be understood and agreed and there can be no predetermined solution imposed.

"The government parameters -- passed across the table, restated in the budget, and now sent to every school board degrade our collective agreements. The government proposal removes working conditions that have been in place for decades. Our membership is mostly women. The government proposal is an attack on women, an attack on unions, and an attack on public sector workers. There is no incentive to return to this kind of table."

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Special Issue of Workers' Forum

Across southern Ontario, town hall meetings organized by the Canadian Autoworkers are underway to discuss with autoworkers and all those concerned, the importance of the auto industry, its direction and the necessity to maintain Canadian standard wages, working and living conditions. A special issue of Workers' Forum has been published to assist autoworkers with their analysis and discussion of a way forward for the sector that serves their interests and the Canadian economy. It features an article entitled, "Autoworkers Firmly Defend Their Claim on What They Produce," by K.C. Adams which has the following five parts:

- Part One: Extortion Is a Crime -- Time for a New Direction for the Economy
- Part Two: The Sham of Profit-Sharing -- Concessions Are Not Solutions!
- Part Three: Profit-Sharing Means Even More Insecurity for Autoworkers
- Part Four: A Basic Problem in the Auto Industry
- Part Five: The Need for Equilibrium and a New Direction for the Economy

This special issue also features an item entitled "The Pillage of Chrysler: Chronology of Fiat's Takeover of Chrysler -- 1998 to March 2012"

The cost is $4.00. Workers' Forum is a supplement to The Marxist-Leninist Daily and is published by the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) and can be reached at:

P.O. Box 264, Adelaide Stn,
Toronto, ON M5C 2J8
Tel: (416) 253-4475
Email: workerscentre@cpcml.ca

For the schedule of meetings on the future of the auto industry, click here.

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Read Ontario Political Forum
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