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August 13, 2014 - Vol. 3 No. 51

Elementary Teachers Hold Annual General Meeting

Teachers Recognize the Need to Prepare for Challenging Negotiations

Elementary Teachers Hold Annual General Meeting
Teachers Recognize the Need to Prepare for Challenging Negotiations
Important Issues Facing Elementary Teachers - Laura Chesnik
BC Teachers Receive Widespread Support from Ontario

Negotiate Don't Dictate!
University of Windsor Faculty Oppose Imposed Terms

Liberals Pass Austerity Budget
Conditions Set for Crisis to Deepen - Dan Cerri

Justice for Injured Workers!
Scrap the New Benefit Policies! No to Surveillance Harassment!
- Christine Nugent

Note to Readers

Elementary Teachers Hold Annual General Meeting

Teachers Recognize the Need to Prepare for
Challenging Negotiations

Toronto, August 11, 2014. Delegates open the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's Annual General Meeting.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) from August 11-14 in Toronto. There are 640 delegates from across the province participating.

ETFO represents 76,000 English public elementary school teachers and Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECE), Professional Support Personnel (PSP) and Education Support Personnel (ESP) across Ontario.

The AGM opened with an address by ETFO president Sam Hammond. In his remarks Hammond outlined his views on the major victories for ETFO in the last year.

In speaking to the significance of the provincial election results, Hammond emphasized that the union contributed greatly to defeating Tim Hudak, stating that this involved in many of the ridings across Ontario supporting Liberals, even though it had been less than two years since Bill 115 was imposed. He said that after much debate and discussion with members the union executive decided that the risks of a Hudak government were too great.

He highlighted the broad unity of teacher and education worker affiliate unions surrounding the amendments they wanted to Bill 122, the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, most of which were incorporated into the legislation that was eventually passed.

He emphasized the role that ETFO delegates played in electing CLC President Hassan Yussuf as a victory for the union. Hammond also highlighted the importance of ETFO's donation to the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) of $1 million dollars as a way to send a message to the BC government that its attacks on the BCTF are unacceptable. Discussing what the coming negotiations will hold Hammond indicated that under the new legislation negotiations will be challenging, however the union is ready. The first meeting with the government and school boards' representatives will take place on Sepember 3

Also addressing the General Meeting are: Hassan Yussuf, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, as well as Ontario Teachers' Federation (OTF) president Julie Pauletig, Canadian Teachers' Federation president Dianne Woloschuk and Diane Redsky, project director of the Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada (Canadian Women's Foundation).

It is of note that a significant number of resolutions put forward for discussion by ETFO Locals concern the issue of decision-making for the purpose of ratifying local and provincial collective agreements, given that provincial bargaining has been legislated for teachers and education workers by the Liberal government. The motions reflect the stand of members to ensure that local decision making is not usurped through provincial bargaining legislation that was imposed on the sector for the coming round of negotiations. Such concern comes out of the experience of the fight against Bill 115 in which the province usurped the powers of local school boards as well as local unions and imposed contracts.

August 13, 2014. Premier Kathleen Wynne held a
question and answer session after her remarks to delegates. One question received a standing ovation. It denounced Bill 115, and requested that all that was stolen from teachers, education workers and the education system through the draconian legislation be restored. In this way, Wynne could show that she truly believes Bill 115 was a mistake, said the delegate.

Ontario Political Forum wishes the delegates to the AGM success in their deliberations and is confident that by focusing on how to affirm their rights under the new circumstances they will be able to orient themselves heading into the battles ahead.

(Photos: ETFO.ca)

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Important Issues Facing Elementary Teachers

One of the most important questions facing this AGM is how teachers and education workers can affirm their rights in the context of a Liberal majority government and new provincial bargaining legislation. Teachers and education workers have a right to have a say over their wages and working conditions by dint of the work they do and the important role they play in the education of future generations.

Elementary teachers succeeded in affirming their rights and defending the rights of all working people during the last round of negotiations by refusing to submit to the government's austerity parameters which amounted to stealing over $1 billion from education, and saying No! to imposed non-agreements. This stand rallied all those working people in Ontario who wanted to oppose government dictate and theft of public funds and violations of workers' rights. "If You Work in Ontario, This is Your Fight," became a rallying cry for everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder to oppose Bill 115 and the arbitrary powers it proposed to give the minority Liberal government.

September 2012. Elementary teachers approve historic strike votes following the government's passage of Bill 115.
Left: Ottawa Carleton;
right: Hastings and Prince Edward (Belleville).

Now with a Liberal majority and new provincial bargaining legislation, elementary teachers will have to discuss how to do the same under the new circumstances. With a majority government the pressure will increase for teachers and education workers to voluntarily accept austerity in education with the threat of more imposed contracts and prolonged labour disputes à la British Columbia held over their heads. Already the Wynne government is seeking to impose fraudulent austerity parameters on negotiations claiming there is "no new money" so as to present teachers and education worker's political opposition to austerity as "out of touch" with reality. This at a time when the Liberals recently gave $220 million to Cisco and are preparing to give even more to Chrysler! In addition the Liberals made sure that in the last period the Labour Board was provided with the conditions to rule the coordinated withdrawal of voluntary extracurricular activities an illegal strike after contracts were imposed, setting up teachers to be criminalized for using their voluntary activities as a means to alert the society to the violation of their rights and the privatization of education by government.

Although it appears as if the odds are against teachers and education workers, their experience shows they are able to interevene in a manner which favours them. In the fight against Bill 115 and in by-elections, as well as during the general election, where teachers were active in defending their rights and mobilizing their families, friends and peers, based on an independent stand that defends the rights of all, they were able to form public opinion which blocked the government's ability to dictate and do as it pleases.

The example of teachers and education workers in Windsor and Essex County, who actively organized in the general election to defeat both the Liberals and PCs to contribute to blocking a majority government by going all out to Get 3 to vote against the Liberals and PCs, shows that by taking a stand that affirms everyone's rights the working people rise to the occasion and affirm their rights.

As the next round of negotiations is set to begin it is important that teachers and education workers overcome all the new attempts being prepared to get them to give up their fight for rights by "waiting and seeing" what the Liberals have in store for them.

The example of what the majority Liberal government is doing in BC is a warning. It is now offering to "pay" parents for "lost days" for students when the teachers are on strike, establishing an anti-social "voucher" style arrangement which will smash public education. Or, the Liberal majority in Quebec that is setting up schemes to enable the private so-called health care providers to deliver healthcare paid for with public funds. It shows that majorities are being used to impose new arrangements to destroy any public authority that exists which upholds public right and not monopoly right. Now is not the time to "wait and see" but to step up the work to say No! to dictate and No! to privatization in education. The last two years have shown that it is in boldly affirming rights and not waiting for others to do it for you that headway can be made.

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BC Teachers Receive Widespread Support
from Ontario

Teacher and education workers' provincial and local unions are fully supporting their counterparts in British Columbia who were forced out on full-scale strike June 17. Since May 26, BC teachers had been holding rotating strikes. They are on strike across the province in order to affirm their rights against the BC Liberal government which refuses to submit to the popular will in BC that supports the teachers and their defence of their wages and working conditions -- most importantly on their right to negotiate items such as class size and composition. The people of BC are clear that the teachers are the ones defending public education, and thus the public interest, and this is why they are getting support.

In this light, it is significant that following the fight of teachers and education workers in Ontario against Bill 115 and government violation of their rights, they are now standing shoulder to shoulder with BC teachers at the provincial and local level. This is a clear sign to the Liberal government in Ontario -- now in a majority situation like that of BC -- that dictate and violation of rights will not be accepted.

Support from Ontario Teachers and Education Workers

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond sent a letter of support to Jim Iker, President of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) accompanied by a cheque for $1 million dollars from ETFO. Hammond said, "Your federation has, for twelve years, faced unprecedented attacks on your union rights. Your government has stripped provisions from your collective agreements and refused to work with you to provide high quality public education. The government has ignored court decisions and granted wage increases to other public sector workers while freezing teacher salaries." Hammond said no other federation in the country had to deal with the challenges that the BCTF and its members have, saying: "You have set an example for all of us."

Hammond pointed out that the issues BCTF is fighting for -- smaller class sizes, more specialist teachers to support student learning and a fair salary -- are also priorities for Ontario teachers and other education workers, stating: "Your fight is our fight."

He said that ETFO members know how important it is to support BC teachers in their struggle against "a government that continues to underfund public education and fails to respect and support its teachers." He said ETFO would stand with BCTF "today and for as long as it takes for teachers to win."

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) President Paul Elliott also sent a letter of support and on June 19, at the All Together for Public Education Rally for a Fair Deal and Better Support for Kids, he presented a cheque for $100,000 to the BCTF. Elliott announced that a total of $1.5 had been donated to the BCTF by the three largest teachers' federations in Ontario.

In the letter of support, Elliott stated: "The recent attacks on teachers, public education and collective bargaining in British Columbia are both unprecedented and indefensible. It is clear that your members have borne the weight of standing up to a government intent on forcing its agenda with no concern for the consequences.

"As you are aware, our members are no strangers to such reckless acts of a government. Last year they stood strong against imposed contracts which stripped them of not only important benefits, but also of the right to participate in collective bargaining with their employers."

Elliott said OSSTF members were closely watching as the situation unfolded in BC, recognizing that an attack on teachers is an attack on public education, and pledged OSSTF's support to the BCTF and its members in their struggle. In a statement issued the same day, he said that "the attack on public education in British Columbia is an attack on us all."

On May 1, Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) President James Ryan wrote to offer support on behalf of 45,000 OECTA members to the BCTF and its members, saying it was not surprising that they had been forced into job action "with a government that has a proven record as an adversary of teachers, students and parents of BC." He called it shameful that in one of the highest cost regions of Canada the BC government was funding students at an average of $1,000 less per student than the national average and said that BC students should not have to tolerate cuts to programs, as those for special needs, or cuts to numbers of teachers. Ryan said the BC government needed to restore class size provisions it had illegally stripped from teacher collective agreements and recognize that teachers deserve a fair wage and a just compensation increase that would bring them in line with provinces of comparable costs of living.

In addition to the support BC teachers have received from the provincial bodies of unions representing Ontario teachers and education workers, letters of support and financial donations have been sent by local unions/districts of these unions. It is of note that many of these local unions were very active in the fight against provincial government dictate in the form of Bill 115 and Bill 122, the provincial bargaining legislation in Ontario.

David Clegg, president of the York Region of ETFO writes: "It is an inspiration to us that BCTF members' solidarity is unwavering, even having depleted your ability to provide strike pay, in the face of a regressive and hostile government." A $10,000 donation was sent along with the letter.

The first vice-president of the Toronto Occasional Teachers' local of ETFO, Robert Fulford, writes in his letter that "we admire, respect and appreciate how the BCTF has stood on the front lines for all teachers."

In a note to the BCTF vice-president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation, Janet Fraser, makes reference to the slogan adopted by federal public servants: "We are all in this together."

Mike Lumb, president of the Limestone ETFO local also sent a donation and a letter on behalf of the local. In a letter Lumb stated: "Please accept this donation from the members of ETFO Limestone Local to help you in your fight with the Liberal government and to protect your members' rights. We went through a similar struggle here with Bill 115 just over a year ago."

At their annual general meeting, members of OSSTF District 9 in Windsor-Essex unanimously passed a resolution to donate $500 to the BCTF in support of their strike.

Joe Martone, president of the elementary unit of the Simcoe-Muskoka local of OECTA stated: "The striking teachers of BC are up against a very difficult government that appears to be unwilling to negotiate in good faith. We went through our own strike in 2002 and we can fully appreciate the impact this type of labour dispute can have on your members, financially and emotionally." An $800 donation was included with the letter.

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Negotiate Don't Dictate!

University of Windsor Faculty Oppose Imposed Terms

Signs from "Rally for Our Rights" organized by the Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA) on
July 8, 2014 to say No! to the administration's threat to impose working conditions.

Ever since the election of the Liberal majority government the administration at the University of Windsor, in particular its President Alan Wildeman, has been aggressively trying to force the faculty to submit to the dictate that the government's austerity parameters for the public sector must be agreed to as the basis for negotiations or else. The University President has constantly invoked the government's declaration of "no new funds" for negotiations in order to justify his dictate showing how the Liberal majority is being used to violate workers rights.

On July 28 the University of Windsor imposed terms and conditions of employment on the members of the Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA) based on what it calls its "final offer" to their union, something it had threatened to do if the offer was not accepted. WUFA represents 1,100 full and part-time teaching faculty as well as librarians and ancilliary academic staff such as coaches and others. Its last collective agreement expired June 30, 2014.

The union's negotiating team rejected the University's "final offer" presented on July 15, saying it contained an unacceptable wage freeze and concessions. They put forward a counter-proposal on July 18. The University's answer came in a July 24 letter saying it intended to impose its "final offer" -- to which the members of WUFA responded by voting 99.5% in favour of holding a strike vote, now set to take place August 14.

Previously, on July 3, shortly after the election of a Liberal majority government and when negotiations had barely begun, the University threatened to stop honouring WUFA's collective agreement if a new contract was not in place within five days. However, it backed off from implementing its threat at the time in the face of instant and widespread condemnation by the affected members as well as by unions representing faculty at other universities and workers in other sectors.

With respect to the July 28 imposition, WUFA president Anne Forrest stated: "Even if these were terrific terms and conditions of employment, having them imposed upon us is unacceptable. It's the act of imposition that has become the focal point of our organizing now."

"Who wouldn't negotiate with us in the future if all they have to do is come to the table and say, 'We don't like what you're saying, so here: we're imposing our conditions of employment whether you like them or whether you don't,' " she said. "Next time around, why wouldn't they do the same thing? We're really protecting our right to participate in this process."

The strike vote and information meetings being held in advance will be an opportunity for members of the Faculty Association to reject the University's dictate and affirm the rights of all workers by showing that despite the government having a majority, setting the stage for the University of Windsor to try and impose austerity, dictate is still unacceptable.

(CBC, The Lance, Windsor Star)

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Liberals Pass Austerity Budget

Conditions Set for Crisis to Deepen

On July 24, the newly elected Liberal majority in the Legislature passed the Liberals' budget bill by a vote of 56 in favour to 37 against. The Legislature is now recessed for the summer and will resume sitting on October 20.

The Liberals presented this budget, originally introduced on May 1, as their election platform, and its swift passage following the election with little debate is an attempt by the government to make it appear as though the austerity measures it contains have legitimacy or popular support. This, despite the fact that only 20% of the electorate actually voted for the Liberals and many did so on the basis of trying to use their vote to defeat Tim Hudak, since they perceived a Hudak government as a greater evil than a Liberal majority. Thus, 80% of the electorate did not vote for the Liberals. This raises a serious problem of legitimacy for the direction they continue to push the province. Instead of recognizing that their agenda does not have the popular support of the working people, the Liberals are instead making it clear they plan to use their majority to impose the measures in the budget on the working people, especially as concerns workers' wages and working conditions, regardless of the political opposition to such measures and the destructive effect they will have on the society. They are also making it clear that they will uphold monopoly right through handing over more public funds to the monopolies on demand. Already "negotiations" are underway with Chrysler in this respect with defeated Liberal cabinet minister Teresa Piruzza now hired by Chrysler to head its government relations department.

While the Legislature is in recess many public sector workers are already or will soon be in negotiations with the government, including K-12 teachers and support staff, university and college faculty and staff, doctors and jail guards. Wynne constantly repeats that there is no new money for these negotiations and that "restraint" is now a permanent requirement for the working people. Meanwhile there is no such stand taken towards the demands of the monopolies.

The working people are already rejecting the pressure to succumb to the idea that the measures in the Liberal budget must be accepted based on the Liberals now having a majority. They are throwing off the Stockholm Syndrome that gripped certain sections of the electorate and was used by the Liberals to cover up the anti-social direction they are taking the province. The working people are recognizing that they could have blocked a majority government had they intervened across the province to defeat both the Liberals and PCs in the June election. This recognition makes the Liberals' majority even more hollow as it becomes clearer that it was obtained through smoke and mirrors about what they stand for rather than any real support from the people.

The working people of Ontario are the producers of the wealth and providers of the services and by dint of their work have the right to participate in setting the direction of the economy. They have already shown that they will not accept the government imposing austerity on them through dictate and this will once again become apparent as the Liberals move to swiftly impose their austerity budget.

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Justice for Injured Workers!

Scrap the New Benefit Policies!
No to Surveillance Harassment

June 1, 2014. Injured workers and their allies rally at Queen's Park on Injured Workers' Day,
midway through the provincial election
, to demand justice for injured workers.

Injured workers, their organizations and allies took an active role in the 41st general election throughout the province in putting forth their political demands which were in their own interests and the interests of all working people. They organized pickets at the Ministry of Labour leading up to a spirited Injured Workers Day which landed in the middle of the election. Issue 5 of the Justice for Injured Workers newspaper was distributed in ridings throughout Ontario and a Day of Shame protest took place that brought promises from local Liberal and NDP candidates that they would pressure the province to scrap the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) anti-worker benefits policies. All politicians in the Legislature will be held to account!

Kevin Flynn, the Minister of Labour in the Wynne majority government must reject the new and revised benefits policies as finalized by the WSIB and presented to the Board of Directors headed by Chair Elizabeth Witmer (who also led the Harris-era attack on injured workers). Throughout the election and before, the resolve of injured workers, their families and organizations to fight for their rights to their benefits and against the systematic dismantling of the 100-year-old public workers' compensation system has resulted in the broadening of support, in successful resolution of some claims and political exposure of the government's anti-social, anti-worker path. They have strengthened their organizations and ability to fight and won the support of allies.

Several prominent lawyers have come forward to denounce the illegal implementation of the "draft" benefits policies under which injured workers were denied benefits due to "pre-existing conditions" such as degenerative disc disease and aging. The determination of injured workers has led to the launch of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) Legal Defence Fund. ONIWG has called on trade unions, legal clinics and like-minded activists to assist them in raising money which will be used to take collective legal action through such means as class action suits or Charter challenges against the violations of injured workers' rights.

Injured workers have also taken up battling increased surveillance and harassment by the WSIB. Through their collective work they are exposing these anti-worker actions. Because of their resistance to these intrusions into their lives, the Industrial Accident Victims' Group of Ontario (IAVGO), a community legal clinic that provides free services to injured workers, has come forward to obtain, through a freedom of information request, documentation that identifies the callous WSIB internal guidelines. The guidelines reveal a regime of approximately 100 "red flags" and "frauds" that are identified and used as a pretext for surveillance of the most vulnerable and precarious workers such as those with limited English, psychological problems, lack of stable housing or temporary employment, to mention just a few. They are being targeted for covert surveillance. It must be stopped!

The actions injured workers took during the election strengthen the fight for the rights of all and deserve the support of all working people. They now must continue the fight to oppose a government that imposes austerity on them under the hoax of having a mandate to do so even though they received a mere 20 per cent of the electorate's vote. This means continuing to oppose, through various means, the assault on their right to compensation, their increased harassment through surveillance and the downloading of the "unfunded liability" onto the backs of injured workers in the interest of employers.

The slogans shouted at the Injured Workers Day ring true at this juncture: "We will not be silenced!"; "We will not be intimidated or live in fear!"; "We will not abandon our claims and will keep fighting for justice!"

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Note to Readers

Ontario Political Forum is publishing irregularly during the summer and will re-start regular publication Thursday, September 4. Please continue to send in your reports and views so that together we can ensure that the independent voice of the working class takes its place in the politics of Ontario.

The editorial and technical team of OPF hopes that all its readers are having a safe summer.

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