CPC(M-L) HOME ontario@cpcml.ca

December 24, 2012 - Vol. 2 No. 16

On the Eve of Government's Arbitrary December 31 Deadline

Reject Minister's Fraudulent Demand
for Local Negotiations

 Mass rally of teachers and education workers gives resounding NO! to McGuinty government's recall of Legislature
to introduce Bill 115, the
Putting Students First Act, that violates their collective bargaining rights,
Queen's Park, on August 28, 2012.

On the Eve of Government's Arbitrary December 31 Deadline
Reject Minister's Fraudulent Demand for Local Negotiations
The Demand to Repeal Bill 115 Is Inextricably Linked to Opposing the Illegitimate Austerity Agenda - Enver Villamizar

Step Up Actions to Defeat Bill 115 in the New Year!
Mass Political Mobilization to Repeal Bill 115 Reaffirms Support for Teachers and Education Workers - Dan Cerri
High School Teachers and Thousands of Education Workers Vote for Day of Political Protest

On the Eve of Government's Arbitrary December 31 Deadline

Reject Minister's Fraudulent Demand
for Local Negotiations

On December 21, Minister of Education Laurel Broten issued a statement in response to the stand of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) that the government not impose contracts on teachers and education workers after December 31, the date after which, according to Bill 115, the Minister has the power to do so.

In her remarks, Minister Broten tried to divide teachers and education workers' unions, calling those that have been willing to negotiate agreements within the government's "fiscal parameters" -- removing $2.19 billion from education in two years -- "reasonable" and those that have not "unreasonable." She cited the "hundreds of hours" of discussions that the government has held with some unions as proof that negotiation is possible. She said: "Negotiated agreements are possible and they are the preferred approach. By reaching negotiated local agreements that are ratified by teachers and support staff, we can see a return to peace in our English public schools and can re-focus our efforts on what matters most: success for every student."

She ended her remarks stating: "I am calling on the leadership of ETFO, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to put students first and to reach locally negotiated deals before the December 31st deadline."

Ontario Political Forum condemns Broten's remarks and her ongoing attempts to present the government's dictate to abscond with $2.19 billion from the public education system as reasonable, while teachers' and education workers' defence of their rights and the rights of all is presented as unreasonable. 

Broten's remarks deliberately hide that her government will only allow negotiations that remain within its anti-social "parameters" of stealing billions from education. This is the aim of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and her demand that all other "negotiated" contracts resemble it. Already, the government has only funded school boards according to these anti-social "parameters" making local negotiations a sham. In addition, the results of all the so-called local negotiations must be submitted to the Minister for approval, further exposing this fraud. Finally, if a school board and union were to come to an agreement that falls outside the government's parameters, the Minister has threatened to take over the boards and has used the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and the Toronto District School Board as examples of the fate that awaits those who defy the government's dictate.

Another significant thing Broten failed to mention is that tentative agreements were negotiated by OSSTF within the government's parameters and accepted by local school boards have been overwhelmingly rejected by OSSTF members in six of those seven school districts. All of this is why local negotiations have not produced the government's desired results.

It is clear to teachers and education workers that the Minister is following a script that paints the unions as spoilers and unreasonable, while the government is the rational actor trying to find some sort of compromise. The problem for Broten is that everyone can see through this charade and knows that the government has no mandate for what it is doing and is becoming more and more irrational with every move it makes. No matter what action the government takes after December 31, it is clear that it is the government that is operating in an unreasonable and irresponsible manner. Meanwhile teachers and education workers have held numerous votes that show overwhelmingly their unions have clear mandates to say No to the government's agenda. This stand has the support of the working class because it affirms everyone's right to say No! to the anti-social direction in which the government is taking Ontario.

Return to top

The Demand to Repeal Bill 115 is Inextricably Linked to Opposing the Illegitimate Austerity Agenda

A position being put forward by the McGuinty government and all the candidates for the Liberal leadership is that teachers and education workers must "understand Ontario's fiscal reality." It is usually made in the context of appealing to teachers and education workers to be "reasonable" and make concessions on their wages and working conditions, so as to "do their share" for Ontario. This position requires that teachers and education workers accept the debt and deficit as legitimate and leads to the demand for fairness and equity in implementing cuts to social programs. The spurious conclusion of this position is that Bill 115 would not be necessary if teachers and education workers willingly accepted the government's "fiscal parameters" and only negotiated within those narrow confines provincially and locally. This conclusion is reflected in the recent "peace plan" put forward by Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy.

In their resistance to Bill 115, teachers and education workers are coming to grips with the fact that the debt and deficit and its legitimacy is the bogeyman used to justify the violation of rights. As a result they cannot ignore this issue and must confront it head on.

Teachers and education workers are not simply fighting for the right to collectively bargain and strike within the parameters of the agenda to cut social programs in order to pay the debt and deficit. The fight to repeal Bill 115 and affirm the right to strike is being taken up in order to have the ability to say No! to the direction being taken by the Liberal government provincially and the Harper government federally -- the direction of usurping public authority in order to remove billions of dollars from public social programs to hand it over to private interests. The attack on unions, in the form of eliminating the right to collectively bargain and to strike, is being stepped up precisely because these represent a block to the direction these governments are taking the province and entire country.

Governments are supposed to represent the interests of their citizens and ensure that their rights are not violated. When governments are the ones violating citizens' rights, the very issue of the legitimacy of those governments comes into question. Ontarians are asking: on behalf of whom is the government operating by ripping billions of dollars out of education in order to pay down the deficit? How will taking this money and handing it over to the moneylenders who hold Ontario's deficit resolve any problems in Ontario? Why does the government treat its citizens with such contempt, while it puts private interests in a privileged position to receive billions from the public treasury?

The government's duty is to continually find ways to invest in public social programs like education, the main component of which is the people who provide this education. Their work to educate the youth adds immense value to the economy in the form of the skills the youth acquire and are able to use to contribute to the society. In addition to the value added to the economy by the work that teachers and education workers do, the wages and benefits being stolen from them would normally recirculate into the communities in which they live and contribute to maintaining a definite standard of living.

The removal of billions from the public sector to pay the deficit is theft from Ontario's economy. This is added-value that is removed from these communities and given to private interests who control the deficit. This added-value will likely only return to Ontario's economy in the form of more loans to siphon more exorbitant interest payments on the debt from the people of Ontario. Was this not the experience under Mike Harris, where after years of cuts to social programs and increased user fees for public services in the name of paying down the debt and deficit, the debt actually increased forcing the Liberals to cry bloody murder when they took office that they did not know the real extent of Ontario's finances when they made their election campaign promises?! Some might claim the Liberals learned from Harris and repeated this scenario as McGuinty painted a rosy picture of Ontario's economy to get elected most recently, only to unveil the doom and gloom after being elected to a minority government.

Ontarians never approved the use of the public treasury to finance the pay-the-rich schemes that have resulted in the current deficit. The fallout of these schemes is now being used to justify attacks on the people of Ontario, who the government is duty-bound to protect. How can schemes that indebt the public treasury to serve private interests and used to attack the rights of Ontarians be considered legitimate? Why aren't alternatives to attacking the wages and working conditions of the workers even discussed? Would a family that faces a deficit start attacking its members in order to pay it down? Of course not. Alternatives would be found that guarantee the well-being of the family and activate its members to find a way forward that strengthens the family and the well-being of everyone in it.

In the case of Ontario, those who have been elected to represent the interests of the people have no problem attacking those they are supposed to represent, while private interests are put in a privileged position and continue to receive incentives, grants, bailouts and other forms of payment in the most unrestrained manner.

The demand to repeal Bill 115 and to affirm workers' right to strike and students' right to education is linked directly to the opposition to the austerity agenda. By arguing this out in the new year, the movement that has emerged to challenge Bill 115 will make headway in defending the rights of all and rallying the society in defence of its own interests.

Return to top

Step Up Actions to Mobilize Everyone to Defeat Bill 115 

Mass Political Mobilization to Repeal Bill 115 Reaffirms Support for Teachers and Education Workers

Teachers and education workers, as well as their supporters, are stepping up their resistance and organization in the fight against Bill 115 and the austerity agenda. The work to mobilize all Ontarians to call for the repeal of Bill 115 is a decisive aspect of this work. Since the one month anniversary of the passage of Bill 115 petition work, including going door-to-door in certain ridings, has been undertaken to mobilize the public against Bill 115. This work involves discussing with Ontarians what the bill represents so that space is opened to share information and come to conclusions based on real deliberations. Where this work has been taken up, it is demonstrating that broad support exists for the teachers and education workers because their fight represents the fight for the rights of all. As this work is stepped up it goes a long way in building a broader political expression of the popular will to combat the illegitimate legal will the Ontario government is trying to impose.

Developing this mass mobilization is particularly important to combat disinformation coming from the ruling circles and mass media. First of all, the work smashes the idea that there exists an anti-teacher and education worker sentiment. A recent survey shows that nearly half (49 per cent) of Ontarians support education workers in the battle with the government and 54 per cent disapprove of Bill 115. According to those doing door-to-door work, the support for teachers and education workers and for the repeal of the bill is actually much higher. Secondly, the work to develop discussion and sort out how issues pose themselves right out amongst the people helps to overcome the attempts to overwhelm them and make them feel isolated. As opposed to the doom and gloom of the ruling circles and mass media that there are only anti-social options -- given the "exceptional circumstances" Ontario is in -- the mobilizing work is exciting as it creates a converging point where solutions that favour the people can be discussed as alternatives to the austerity agenda.

The mobilizing work underway in different parts of the province is uniting workers and people against the attempts to divide them and liquidate their political demands. This will become even more important moving into the new year so that teachers, education workers and all workers develop their own independent voice so that they are not split and the movement they have given rise to is not liquidated on any grounds.

To become involved in this work in the new year, contact ontario@cpcml.ca.

Return to top

High School Teachers and Thousands of Education Workers Vote for Day of Political Protest

Ontario high school teachers and support staff give unions overwhelming strike mandates, rejecting the
McGuinty government's threat to violate bargaining rights.; meeting in Windsor September 17, 2012.

On December 21, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) announced that its members across the province have voted in favour of conducting a one-day political protest to show their opposition to Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act. The announcement means that going into the new year, the three largest unions representing teachers and education workers in Ontario -- the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and OSSTF all have mandates from their members for a one-day walkout if the Minister of Education imposes contracts after December 31.

"The teachers and educational support staff workers of OSSTF/FEESO have sent a clear message that they oppose Bill 115 and they are willing to walk out for one day to show the Liberals and the Conservatives that they will not be intimidated by their cynical agenda to strip us of our democratic rights," said OSSTF President, Ken Coran.

"The political protest is a tool that we can use to exercise our democratic right to speak out against Bill 115," continued Coran.

"The Minister, the Premier and the Conservatives have vastly underestimated the support of our members and of the public when it comes to opposing Bill 115. The choice is clear for the Minister; do not impose collective agreements upon our members, repeal Bill 115 and allow the negotiations process that has worked for many years to occur without interference or obstruction by the government," he added.

No date or locations for the protest have been determined. Coran noted that he will need to consult the Provincial Executive and local leaders before making a decision, and "it will be the actions of the Minister of Education that will inform any further course of action."

Return to top


Read Ontario Political Forum
Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  ontario@cpcml.ca