February 5, 2013 - No. 22
Premier: No Still Means No!
Oppose Attempts to Use Labour Board to
Criminalize Teachers and Education Workers
and Education Workers - Mira Katz
Defeat Those Peddling
Illegitimate Austerity Agenda!
Scenario - Enver
- Dan Cerri
Health and Safety
• Anniversary of Hampstead Tragedy
• Ontario Government Refuses to Hold Inquest
• Farm Worker Organizations Denounce Coroner's
Decision Not to Hold
Premier: No Still Means No!
Oppose Use of Labour Board to Criminalize
Teachers and Education Workers
The government-imposed collective non-agreements
continue to cause chaos in the education sector. The Ontario Labour
(ORLB) has now held five days of hearings to consider an application
made by two school boards requesting that public elementary teachers'
from extra-curricular and voluntary activities be declared illegal
strike activity. The case, which is directed against the Elementary
Teachers' Federation of
Ontario and its members, is being heard by Bernard Fishbein, Chair of
the OLRB. Fishbein is the same official who ruled the planned one-day
of teachers and education workers an illegal strike. The hearings began
January 25 and resume on Wednesday, February 6.
School Boards' Intervention
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board and Upper
Canada District School Board's application
to the OLRB requests that the Labour Board declare that "[ETFO] and its
officers, officials and agents have authorized, counselled, procured,
or encouraged an unlawful strike and that its members have engaged in
an unlawful strike" and goes on to request "a direction from the Board
ETFO officers, officials, or agents and anyone acting on their behalf
cease and desist from calling, authorizing, supporting, encouraging or
to call or authorize an unlawful strike and that its members cease and
desist from engaging in an unlawful strike."
The two school boards are basing their application on
the fact that on January 3 collective non-agreements were imposed by an
Order in Council
on all ETFO bargaining units, making it illegal for teachers and
education workers to engage in strike activity during the life of the
They claim that by withdrawing from extra-curricular activities
teachers are carrying out a strike.
The definition of "strike" in the Education Act is
Ontario Labour Relations Act. Under
section 277.2(4) of the Education Act:
(b) "'strike' includes any action or activity by
teachers in combination or in concert or in accordance with a common
understanding that is designed
or may reasonably be expected to have the effect of curtailing,
restricting, limiting or interfering with
(i) "the normal activities of
or its employees,
(ii) "the operation or
one or more of a board's schools or of one or more of the programs in
one or more schools of a board,
(iii) "the performance of the
of teachers set out in the Act or the regulations under it, "including
any withdrawal of services or work to
rule by teachers acting in combination or in concert or in accordance
with a common
The school boards claim that ETFO members have engaged
in illegal strike activity even though it is understood that the
activities withdrawn are
voluntary and unpaid.
The boards say they are not asking for voluntary
activities to be made mandatory, but maintain that ETFO representatives
engaged in illegal activity
by directing teachers to refrain from doing anything beyond the
300-minute instructional day, making the bogus claim that by so doing
the union is
denying teachers the "freedom" to choose what activities to engage in.
Of course the reason why teachers and education workers have been
extra-curricular activities -- in response to a violation of their
rights and freedoms by the government through Bill 115 and the
imposition of illegitimate
collective non-agreements -- is not considered by the boards or
government to be a violation of teachers' and education workers' rights
and freedoms, and their response a just one. This
fraud is put forward in the face of all the actions that show teachers
and education workers are fully conscious of what they are doing and of
attempts to criminalize their ongoing legitimate protest actions
against the violation of their rights. The lawyer for the school boards
even tried to claim
that ETFO was leading its members, unbeknownst to them, into illegal
ETFO began by calling into question the very legitimacy
of the imposed non-agreements, arguing that the
repeal of Bill 115 invalidated the imposed contracts, and that without
collective agreements in place the union was once again in a legal
strike position. Hence, any collective action or advice given regarding
engaging in such action could not be considered unlawful.
This initial argument
brought a swift intervention from
the Ministry of Education whose lawyer
insisted that the imposed
non-agreements were indeed valid in spite of Bill 115's repeal, making
any strike activity or counselling of it by a union or its members
ETFO also argued that since there were no disciplinary
consequences attached to bulletins and memos sent to its members, they
could not be
considered as directives; rather the communications were to assist
members to decide what activities are voluntary and were an expression
right to not participate in voluntary activities.
ETFO denied the school boards' allegations that
teachers' withdrawal from extra-curricular activities would have
"profound consequences" for
student safety, engagement and achievement.
During the course of the hearings ETFO argued that the
Liberal government, in 2009 during Kathleen Wynne's tenure as Minister
removed Mike Harris-era references to extra-curricular or co-curricular
activities from the Education Act, preventing them being
mandatory, thus removing the legal barrier to teachers withholding
these activities. ETFO's lawyer is quoted as saying, "Once
the government removed 'co-instructional activities' from the Education
-- and also from the definition of a strike -- there
to prohibit teachers from refusing to participate in these activities."
In terms of claims about individuals' actions, ETFO
argued that anything lawful for an individual to do is also lawful for
a group of individuals
to do. If the state attempts to deny a group of individuals the right
to do something a single individual has the right to do, it is a breech
of the Charter
right of freedom of association. Furthermore, ETFO's lawyer maintained,
if Bill 115 prevented anyone from exercising their Charter rights, then
Labour Board must consider this in the hearing as well.
In other news related to the chaos unleashed by the
government's use of bullying tactics and dicate to impose austerity on
teachers and education workers, on February 5 the OLRB will resume
hearing the "failure to represent" complaints of a number of local
units and members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association
(OECTA) against the Provincial Executive of their union for ratifying
and signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with the government on July
5, 2012 without consulting or allowing OECTA members to vote on it. The
OECTA MOU, which the government falsely tried to claim had been signed
by 55,000 teachers, became the template for terms and conditions
imposed six months later on teachers and education workers who had not
"voluntarily" agreed to them by December 31.
Those Peddling Illegitimate Austerity Agenda!
Wynne's No-Win Scenario
A significant portion of
Kathleen Wynne's victory speech was about trying to hide the crisis her
and the Legislature as a whole are mired in. Wynne made an effort to
encourage unity within the Liberal Party in the face of all the big
wigs jumping ship when she
said, "Believe it or not, this was the easy part. Now we have the
challenge that's ahead of us. And we're going to need all of us working
together." She then
invited all of the candidates and their campaign teams to the stage.
"We're going to need to weave together a platform because we're going
to have to be ready
at any moment to go into a campaign. But we're also going to need all
those ideas to continue to govern," she also said.
Wynne has the challenge not only to deliver the
austerity agenda but to do it in a way that saves the Liberals from
their crisis of illegitimacy.
McGuinty's resignation was a sign of his inability to deliver on his
"balanced approach" to imposing austerity on Ontarians and the
prorogation was to create a pause so the Liberals could try and
resurrect themselves in the face of their defeat in the
Kitchener-Waterloo by-election and accusations of corruption in the
Legislature. Wynne has a
daunting task ahead of her.
Wynne has been touted in the media for her mediation
skills. In an attempt to deal with the opposition parties in the
Legislature, she reached out to PC leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader
Andrea Horwath, saying:
"Tim, let's talk about fiscal responsibility. You care about that. So
do I. Andrea, you care about creating a fair society. So do I. There's
so much we can
accomplish if you're willing to work with a strong, smart, Liberal
government." In this way, Wynne is presenting the same notion of a
"balanced approach" as McGuinty claimed to stand for. But this approach
failed to deal with the sharpening of the contradictions -- namely the
refusal of the workers to accept
austerity. And it will be the same story for Wynne.
Throughout her speech Wynne
continued to refer to the bogus Liberal "balanced approach": "This
leadership race has been about rededicating ourselves to Liberal
values; we must
be strong and fair. We must raise our hands to embrace every
opportunity. We must focus on the bottom line without letting anyone
slip through the cracks.
It's why we have to balance our budget. It's why we have to be steely
in our fiscal resolve. [...] Because the people of Ontario don't want
an election. They expect
us to lead." This flies in the face of the direct experience that
teachers, education workers and others have in their fight against the
Liberal version of
austerity. In the name of balance, the Liberals pushed the same agenda
as Hudak, using the bogeyman of the Conservatives to try and hide this.
Wynne's speech also
reflected an attempt to rescue the
credibility of the Legislature that has been in disrepute in the eyes
of the polity. McGuinty prorogued the Legislature in October, shortly
after the defeat of the Liberals and Conservatives in the Kitchener
Waterloo by-election and in the midst of corruption charges leveled
against his government. Wynne tried to re-establish the credibility of
the government and the Legislature by saying, "The coming months are
about...getting back to the Legislature, getting to work, working with
the opposition and demonstrating to the people of Ontario that we can
govern in a
minority parliament." Then in order to make it appear that the
Liberals are not a spent force, she also said she was willing to take
her party into an election and to work with all of the Liberal
to try to recapture a majority government.
Whether in an election or leading up to one, the working
class will play a vital role in opposing and exposing both the
attempts to reset their "balanced"
austerity agenda and the Hudak Conservatives' "pre-emptive" austerity
agenda. The organized resistance in K-W and the fight across the
province against Bill 115 and the all-round austerity
agenda, including the mass mobilization of workers to defend their
rights at the Liberal leadership convention, are all signs that the
working class is up for it and
will not be diverted by attempts to liquidate its fight.
Chamber of Commerce Comes Calling
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce recently released
answers by Kathleen Wynne to questions about how she would advance the
"Emerging Stronger" agenda.
answers to the questions were given before the Liberal
Leadership Convention and were released two days after her selection as
No doubt the Chamber released the answers to keep Wynne
check so she follows through on the austerity agenda and pay-the-rich
schemes like the recent handout to Toyota. On January 23, the same day
the McGuinty government repealed Bill 115 after using it to rip $2.2
billion out of public education over the next two years and billions
more as years go by, the Harper and McGuinty governments together
announced they are giving Toyota $34 million in public funds to build a
new assembly line in Cambridge, Ontario.
As previously pointed out in Ontario Political Forum,
Chamber of Commerce. The monopolies are willing to give Wynne and
the Liberals another chance to deliver their agenda for austerity in a
manner but in the event that they cannot they also have a willing Hudak
to try a "pre-emptive" approach.
Most of Wynne's answers are similar to McGuinty's
"golden mean" approach which uses the "need to work together" to
eliminate the deficit, in an attempt
to make the people accept the harsh realities of austerity. In response
to a question on how to develop a twenty-first century workforce, Wynne
answered: "We must
[...] develop a sustainable model for wage negotiation -- a structured
dialogue with our partners in the broader public sector to create
innovative models for
engagement and negotiation. We cannot afford regular cycles of labour
instability in the delivery of our valued public services." This no
doubt is code for finding ways to get workers to accept an illegitimate
The working class has already
given a fitting response to McGuinty who tried in earnest to appeal to
teachers and education workers to accept Bill 115 as part of the
austerity agenda. As for developing a modern workforce, the
working class has a different idea, and that has to do with ending the
marginalization of workers from participating
in the decision-making process, including building their own politics
that defend their interests. They refuse to accept an illegitimate
austerity agenda, regardless
of who advances it.
Similarly, Wynne addressed the Chamber's agenda to
"restore fiscal balance" by saying that Ontarians have to "stay the
course" to eliminate the deficit
by 2017-18 and "ensur[e] Ontario is a prime environment for
investment." Again, similar to McGuinty, Wynne is trying to justify
opening the economy to private
interests while slashing spending on social programs. But workers'
direct experience is that the agenda of the Liberals today and of the
PCs, is the agenda of
the rich who are demanding that more of the economy and its assets be
put at their disposal, and the workers are saying No to it!
As a continuation of McGuinty's infrastructure projects
to pay the rich, Wynne referred to the importance of the Detroit River
Rail and Peace Bridge
crossings and other infrastructure projects that will be vital to
attract investments and as important avenues for the transportation of
goods. All this points to more
of the same Liberal versions of pay-the-rich schemes through propping
up their own selected monopolies for big scores.
Many of Wynne's answers having to do with the economy
centred on the need to continue along the path of the McGuinty
government's anti-social direction. The workers movement
will continue to hold Wynne and her "new" government to account.
All of Wynne's answers can be found at occ.on.ca.
1. See Ontario
Political Forum, June 28, 2012 - No.
Hold Governments to Account to Defend
Workers' Health and Safety
Anniversary of Hampstead Tragedy
Vigil in Hampstead on
22, 2012 marked six-month anniversary of deaths of migrant farm workers.
One year ago on February 6, 2012 eleven workers were
three workers seriously injured in a horrible collision in the rural
village of Hampstead near the city of Stratford, Ontario. Ten of the
workers who died on the job were workers living and working in Canada
under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers
Program (SAWP), nine from Peru and one from Nicaragua. The other worker
killed was a Canadian truck driver from the area. The three survivors
were also farm workers from Peru. Ontario
Forum again sends
its condolences to the families of the eleven workers who died on their
loss and to the injured
workers hope for the full recovery from their injuries.
Ontario Government Refuses to Hold Inquest into
Ontario's Chief Coroner, Dr. Dan Cass, has announced
will not be holding a Coroner's Inquest into the tragic incident in
Hampstead on February 6, 2012 in which 10 migrant farm workers and a
Canadian truck driver were killed on the job. The deaths and three
serious injuries to farm workers occurred
as a result of a collision between a truck and a van carrying migrant
farm workers. Cass made this announcement on February 5, only one day
before the first anniversary of the deaths and injuries.
Cass said that he had
conducted a private investigation of the
matter by talking to the OPP and the Ministry of Labour and concluded
that a public inquest was not necessary. According to Cass it was an
open and shut case of "driver error" and there was nothing to
investigate. The Chief Coroner has declared
that the Ontario government, the federal government and the governments
of the migrant worker sending countries can all wash their hands of the
This is quite different from the spin Ontario government
were giving the matter at the time of the Hampstead tragedy when people
were horrified by the multiple deaths of workers. In a statement on the
day of the incident, Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli
said,"It's not a clear-cut accident
obviously. We need to look into accountability." He said there were a
lot of questions, "about the van, about the legality of the vans, about
the licensing of the drivers, about the conditions of the road."
Chiarelli said Ontario would consider doing snap inspections of
used for transporting farm workers and licence
reviews of drivers. Ontario, he said, would look into and consider
pulling 15-seat vans off the road because of the number of accidents
they have been involved in. The Minister also said that an inquest into
the deaths and injuries might be held.
The handwringing and
front of the media at the time the deaths and promises of
accountability and about "doing something" is all yesterday's news. The
Chief Coroner is declaring that Ontario is back to business as usual
despite the horrendous death toll at Hampstead.
The Ontario government wants to sweep the Hampstead deaths and injuries
under the rug and pretend that the health and safety of
migrant farm workers is none of its business.
Deaths and serious injuries to farm workers occur
Ontario and have included other incidents involving multiple deaths,
injuries and illnesses. An average of four migrant farm workers are
killed every year on Ontario farms but there has never been a single
coroner's inquest into any of these deaths.
Ontario considers migrant farm workers second class persons
without rights and it has no responsibility for
protecting them or even investigating how and why migrant worker deaths
occur with such frequency on Ontario farms.
This indifference and irresponsibility is totally
the Canadian workers who consider the workers in Ontario fields and
farms to be part of the working class. The government must take
responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of all workers and
especially farm workers who are vulnerable
to abuse by employers because of their lack of permanent residency and
indentured labour status.
Farm Worker Organizations Denounce Coroner's Decision
Not to Hold Hampstead Inquest
The Chief Coroner announced on February 5 that
decided not call an inquest into the February 2012 Hampstead tragedy in
which 10 migrant farm workers and one Canadian truck driver died.
migrant farm workers immediately denounced this decision.
In a statement to media, Stan Raper National
Coordinator of the
Agricultural Workers Alliance-United Food and Commercial Workers
(AWA-UFCW) said that an inquest was needed to help bring to light the
deplorable health and safety situation faced by farm workers employed
in Canada under the Seasonal
Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). "There are some serious problems in
the agriculture sector in the transportation of farm workers and the
lack of regulations, the lack of health and safety. The coroner has the
flexibility to investigate and do inquests into matters that he thinks
are serious. I don't know how
much more serious it can be. Ten farm workers are dead and a truck
driver is dead," Raper said.
The announcement of his decision by the Chief Coroner
came one day
before the first anniversary of the horrible multiple deaths and
injuries to workers in Hampstead on February 6, 2012. Until the Chief
Coroners' last minute announcement, the Coroner's Office had spent a
year stonewalling the demands of
farm worker organizations for an inquest into the deaths.
Two days after the
Hampstead crash Justicia for Migrant (J4MW)
Workers called for the coroner to hold an inquest. "As we mourn this
tragedy it is important that we take immediate steps to prevent such a
tragedy from ever occurring again," a J4MW spokes person said. The
demand for an inquest was repeated
by speakers at a rally and vigil organized by J4MW in Hampstead on July
26. The rally and vigil was attended by many migrant farm workers,
workers from other sectors and by people from every walk of life.
People attending demanded an investigation and concrete action by the
government to ensure the health
and safety of farm workers.
AWA-UFCW called throughout the year for an inquest right
up to time
of the Chief Coroner's announcement. A statement released on February
4, 2013 said, "Workers are in jeopardy every day. They tell us of being
carted around in the back of cube vans, open flat bed pickups, and even
on top of food crates
loaded behind a tractor. The Ontario government must not wait for
another tragedy before it acts. A coroner's inquest into Hampstead is
critical ... a year has passed since Hampstead. There is no excuse for
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