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September 5, 2013 - Vol. 2 No. 48

One Year Anniversary of Kitchener-Waterloo By-Election

Expression Given to Collective Will of the People Against Austerity

One Year Anniversary of Kitchener-Waterloo By-Election
Expression Given to Collective Will of the People Against Austerity

Legislature Opens September 9
Liberals and PCs Set to Carry on in the Face of Growing Opposition to Attacks on Workers' Rights - Dan Cerri
Status of Anti-Worker Legislation

Opening of New School Year
Teachers and Education Workers Re-Affirm: Negotiate Don't Dictate!
- Enver Villamizar
Update on Negotiations - Mira Katz
New Management Model Imposed On Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board
- Laura Chesnik

One Year Anniversary of Kitchener-Waterloo By-Election

Expression Given to Collective Will of the People Against Austerity

September 6 marks the one year anniversary of the rejection of the austerity agenda by the working people and electorate in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) in a by-election. Both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives (PCs) tried to use the by-election to gain legitimacy for their respective versions of austerity but both were soundly defeated. Their defeat represented an historic collective expression of the people's will against the anti-social austerity agenda.

The by-election was a result of then-Premier Dalton McGuinty appointing then-PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). In appointing Witmer, who was the first Minister of Labour in the Harris government, it became clear the Liberals intend to further privatize the compensation system and force injured workers to fend for themselves. Witmer's appointment also represented an attempt by the Liberals to gain the one seat they required to form a majority government in the Legislature with which they could then impose their version of austerity, beginning with teachers and education workers.

The KW by-election showed the potential of the independent politics of the working class bringing together all those who see the necessity to defend the rights of all. Injured workers, steelworkers, teachers and education workers united in action to mobilize the electorate to take a political stand that defended the rights of all. They called on everyone to join in to defeat the Liberals and PCs as a way to hold governments to account for their wrecking and attacks on workers.

The defeat of these two parties in the KW by-election was a result of the organized resistance of the working people who blocked an agenda that did not represent their interests. The by-election particularly presented an opportunity for the teachers and education workers to fight against the attack on their right to have a say, one of the main elements of Bill 115. Working people were able to hold the government to account. This organized resistance was carried forward in the fight to defeat Bill 115 and paved the way for its eventual repeal. It set the tone for the successes that followed. The defeat of the Liberals and PCs in KW put everyone on notice that the workers of Ontario are a force to be reckoned with. It was the groundwork for the defeat of both the Liberals and PCs in the latest by-elections in Windsor-Tecumseh and London West held on August 1.

The significance of the KW by-election becomes more evident with passing time as the working people continue to gain confidence that they can block the anti-social austerity agenda and create the conditions for a truly new direction for the economy of Ontario.

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Legislature Opens September 9

Liberals and PCs Set to Carry on in the Face of
Growing Opposition to Attacks on Workers' Rights

The Second Session of the 40th Parliament of the Ontario Legislature is set to resume on September 9. The last session rose on June 11, after passing the budget that imposed four more years of austerity on the people of Ontario. The last session was characterized by new anti-worker arrangements such as the use of the Labour Relations Board to make illegal the coordinated withdrawal of extracurricular and voluntary activities by teachers and education workers, as well as the introduction of new anti-worker legislation.

While the Legislature was recessed, five by-elections were held. In the ridings of Windsor-Tecumseh and London West, the electorate overwhelmingly rejected the anti-worker austerity agenda being advanced in the Legislature by the Liberals and PCs. In these two ridings, a clear statement was made against both the Liberal and PC versions of the anti-social austerity agenda, showing that there continues to be no mandate from the people for the direction the minority government is taking Ontario. Despite this, the Liberals and PCs have given no indication that they are backing off.

One of the first orders of business in the new session will be Royal Assent for the budget. This will no doubt be used to claim that everyone must now fall in line with its austerity dictate, despite the fact that the people are against this austerity agenda.

At the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference held in Ottawa, Premier Kathleen Wynne gave an indication that the focus of this session will be to bring in new arrangements for collective bargaining for public sector workers. She said: "Our government is determined to build a sustainable model for wage negotiations that is respectful of both collective bargaining and a fair and transparent interest arbitration process." Wynne is determined to convince people through her trademark "collaborative" rhetoric that everyone must now fall in line with the austerity agenda to tackle the debt and deficit.

The PCs echoed Wynne's push for new arrangements. At the AMO Conference, Hudak said that a province-wide public sector wage freeze and changes to the arbitration system and pensions are in order. PC House Leader Jim Wilson was also quoted as saying that "exceedingly generous contracts being handed out to emergency workers through [the] arbitration system are forcing municipal leaders to choose between raising taxes and taking fire trucks and police cruisers off the road and that the [PC and Liberal] parties should work together on 'comprehensive' legislation to reform the process."

The PCs have also pledged to re-introduce a motion of non-confidence in the government that, if passed, could lead to a general election. With the PC Policy Convention taking place September 20-22 in London and indications that the knives are coming out for Tim Hudak, it is unlikely that the confidence motion will give anyone confidence in the PCs, that is, any confidence that their interests will be better defended by their "proscriptive" version of austerity.

Clearly the working people can expect that in the new Legislature all sorts of debate will now take place on how to impose austerity on the working people, especially public sector workers and those who work for municipal governments or are under the system of interest arbitration such as police, firefighters, nurses and others declared "essential services." At the same time, there will be ongoing debate over how best to use the public purse to ensure that monopolies based in Ontario are serviced in the name of "job creation" or "skills development."

All indications suggest that this new session of the Legislature will be a continuation of the last. Despite the voice of the working people saying No! to the Liberals and PCs in the by-elections, they are carrying on business as usual to pass their versions of austerity, including anti-worker arrangements to champion the interests of the rich. This will only deepen the crisis in which the Legislature is mired as the working people of Ontario continue to express their No! in new ways to an agenda that is against their interests.

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Status of Anti-Worker Legislation

The Legislature's agenda will open with Second Reading debate on several anti-worker bills introduced as Private Members' bills by the PCs.[1] They include:

Bill 17, An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 to provide employers with the right to participate in alternate insurance plans;

Bill 62, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to increase the rights of members of trade unions with respect to the certification of trade unions;

Bill 63, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with respect to the Ontario Labour Relations Board and other matters;

Bill 64, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to protect the rights of employees in collective bargaining and the financial interests of members of trade unions; and

Bill 73, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with respect to certain public sector employers in the construction industry.

Over the summer, other anti-worker bills introduced by the PCs were referred to Standing Committees. Bill 5, the Comprehensive Public Sector Compensation Freeze Act, 2013 was referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly and Bill 74, Fairness and Competitiveness in Ontario's Construction Industry Act, 2013 was sent to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.


1. See Ontario Political Forum, July 10, 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 43.

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Opening of New School Year

Teachers and Education Workers Re-Affirm:
Negotiate Don't Dictate!

As the school year begins, negotiations between unions and local school boards continue on how to implement the contract the government imposed using Bill 115 and the various Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that were subsequently signed by teachers' and education workers' unions. As part of their ongoing dictate, the government has "offered" to return $160 million of the over $1 billion they cut from education as a carrot to get school boards to agree to append the MOUs.

Leading up to and during the summer months, most bargaining units of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) also participated in a minimum of three days of tightly restricted "local bargaining" with school boards. These were part of the MOUs the provincial government "permitted" OSSTF and ETFO and included contract language outside of the contracts already imposed on them. The government affirmed this is their form of collective bargaining.

The provincial government is now presenting itself as a neutral party as unions and school boards try to agree on how to implement the various MOUs. At the same time, the government is waiting in the wings -- using the refusal of some school boards and their locally-elected officials to accept the dictated terms -- to bolster its demand for new legislation to impose provincial bargaining, usurping the role of locally-elected school boards -- the actual employers of teachers and education workers -- and local unions.

In this situation, the government is presenting dictate as a mechanism to ensure boards accept the imposed terms. It is using the results of the chaos caused by its dictate to justify bringing in new arrangements that will eliminate or at least severely restrict decision-making and negotiations at the local level between unions and school boards in favour of centralized negotiations with the government. The government wants these new arrangements in order to guarantee that it can impose its anti-social austerity parameters in the education sector without local school boards and trustees or local unions standing in the way.

Teachers and education workers are in favour of new arrangements that serve to empower them to have more say over what happens in the schools and the direction of the education system. These types of arrangements are urgently needed so that the experience of teachers and education workers along with professional expertise can be used to improve the education system and contribute to opening society's path to progress. However, the type of arrangements the government wants to impose are to eliminate any input from teachers and education workers in decision-making, as well as that of locally elected trustees. What happens in the education system is to be of no concern to them, which is ridiculous. Teachers, education workers and locally-elected trustees have every right to demand that the government negotiate any new arrangements on the basis of affirming the right of teachers, education workers and locally-elected officials to play a meaningful role in deciding the direction of the system for which they are responsible. This includes deciding the wages and working conditions they require so as to guarantee the  teaching conditions which are the students' learning conditions. The well-being of the students in terms of learning depends on the well-being of teachers and education workers in terms of teaching.

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Update on Negotiations

Since the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the government, modifying the terms imposed by Bill 115, union representatives report that many boards have yet to append the MOUs to the imposed contracts. School boards indicate they have concerns the government will not properly fund the new terms. It is unclear which school boards (or how many) have appended the MOUs that members of OSSTF and ETFO accepted in June.

In an August 14 teleconference with local school boards, the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals and Deputy Minister, George Zegarac, stated school boards are expected to confirm in principle the agreement to append the MOU by August 29, complete the process of appending by September 30 and send in their copies of the appended MOU to the Ministry by October 30.

Sandals said the province is providing up to $160 million in funding to boards, most of which is contingent upon them appending the MOU within these deadlines. "We know that all of our partners in the education sector have an interest in starting the school year on a positive note," she said in a statement. In this way the government is putting itself in position to threaten local school boards that do not fall in line with government dictate or that don't trust the government will do what it says it will do.

In an August 8 memo to school boards, Sandals indicated that as part of the 2012-14 "negotiations" with teachers and education workers, the government committed to provide school boards with the "support that might be required to implement the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and supporting regulations." It has put together a working group of Ministry and school board representatives to specify and validate school board concerns related to the additional costs of the MOUs.

Who Said What

Chief Negotiator for the Toronto Secondary Teachers' bargaining unit, Lisa Black-Meddings, said the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has implemented some elements of the MOU, such as sick leave, but is stalling on others, including extending maternity leave provisions agreed to. "The Toronto District School Board is enormous, and sometimes things do take a long time to roll out, but some of these delays are incredible," she said. "It's very challenging to understand why the board is taking so long." Black-Meddings said she was hopeful the Board would meet the August 29 deadline to confirm their intention to implement the MOUs, as meetings have been interrupted somewhat by summer vacations. The website of the Professional Student Services Personnel, a bargaining unit of OSSTF District 12 informs that the TDSB and other school boards have been "granted a 1 month extension by the [government] to decide whether or not they will append the MOU to the current [collective agreements]."

Union representatives report that differing interpretations of what was agreed to in the MOUs is also resulting in problems. ETFO Rainbow president Barb Blasutti stated: "My fear is the board is only willing to append its own version of the memorandum of understanding, not the understanding that is officially reached between ETFO and the Ministry of Education."

Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB) Chair Rita Collver said her Board hadn't yet fully implemented the terms of the MOUs. Some have been agreed upon, with those outstanding being tied to increased provincial funding. These include a change in the original number of unpaid days and changes to how banked sick leave days were to happen and to whom. Collver said the GEDSB was seeking assurances before appending that the MOUs would be fully funded.

Uncertainty over whether the province would fully fund school boards for the deals was also raised by the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board as the reason why MOUs weren't being fully implemented with their support staff represented by OSSTF.

With files from: Toronto Star, Brantford Expositor, 680 News, Sudbury Northern Life, OSSTF, Ministry of Education memos, Professional Student Services Personnel website)

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New Management Model Imposed on
Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board

On July 19, Minister of Education Liz Sandals announced the government was imposing a new governance model on the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) following its takeover and imposition of a government-appointed supervisor a year ago.


The supervisor was imposed on WECDSB on August 28, 2012, at the height of the government's preparations to impose its dictated austerity parameters onto teachers, education workers and school boards across the province.

The takeover of the WECDSB was based on the recommendation of Deloitte and Touche, the accounting firm imposed on the Board by the Minister of Education under section 257.30 (d) of the Education Act that permits the initiation of an investigation if the Minister "has concerns about the board's ability to meet its financial obligations."

At the time, the Chair of the WECDSB Barb Holland, called the imposition of a supervisor "unwarranted" and accused the province of making the appointment in an effort to force the Board to sign off on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government and the provincial executive of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA). The first act of the appointed temporary supervisor was to sign the MOU on behalf of the board. This OECTA MOU was used to set the template for the contracts eventually imposed on all teachers, education workers and local school boards using Bill 115.

The supervisor was also responsible for overseeing a forensic audit of the WECDSB that was used to slash a group of board retirees' health benefits for which they had already worked, based on the bogus claim that the provision of post-retirement benefits to anyone after 65 years of age was prohibited by the Education Act -- something not stated in the Act.[1] In May 2013, the supervisor also oversaw the layoff of 200 teachers. Reports indicate that half of them have yet to be called back.

The takeover of WECDSB was used to impose the government's austerity agenda at the local level and to see how far the government could go in eliminating the say of local trustees -- something it is now looking to make permanent by legislating new provincial bargaining arrangements. This was all however presented as a way to stop corruption and improve transparency at the board level.

During the time they were under the control of a supervisor, local trustees were eliminated from decision-making and relegated to the sidelines to ask questions of the imposed supervisor, Norbert Hartmann, about the decisions he was making.

New Management Model

On July 19, Minister of Education Liz Sandals, announced that Supervisor Norbert Hartmann's tenure had come to an end and that a new co-management model would be imposed on the WECDSB. After thanking Hartman, Sandals stated: "A key accomplishment during his tenure was the June budget that will ensure the board's future financial sustainability."

Balancing the budget of course means implementing the cuts and new accounting guidelines imposed by the provincial government in order to remove billions from education to pay the moneylenders who own the debt. Local school boards more and more have had the provincial deficit shifted onto their backs in the form of funding cuts and if they do not find ways to implement the cuts, they are targeted for takeover. Of course the governance problems of the school boards are real, just as they are, although much worse, at the provincial level. However, these problems are not addressed in order to provide more empowerment and accountability, but to impose provincial dictate in the name of accountability or transparency.

Sandal elaborated: "[Co-management] is the next phase in supervision, and is the first step towards returning full power back to the board. Under this model, the chair and vice-chair will participate in the decision-making process and provide advice to the supervisor with the intention to build consensus on decisions coming forward to the board. With a balanced budget in place, one of the key priorities of the co-management team will be to help restore public confidence in the operations of the board.

"We have appointed Janine Griffore as the board's supervisor to build on the work of Mr. Hartmann, who put the board on more sound financial footing."[2]

It appears that now that the austerity parameters to eliminate funds from education have been imposed through the budget and cuts brought in by Supervisor Hartmann, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board will be consulted on decisions, rather than the trustees, all in an attempt to overcome the broad sentiment that exists that locally-elected officials have been simply eliminated. The Chair and Vice-Chair will be in the inevitable position of having to implement the austerity parameters and this will be presented as a step towards restoring public confidence in the WECDSB. These are precisely the type of anti-social frauds that have resulted in the lack of confidence and legitimacy for the government and the austerity agenda as a whole.


1. See Ontario Political Forum, June 12, 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 40.
2. Janine Griffore was most recently the Director of Education for the Conseil scolaire des écoles catholiques du sud-ouest (CSDÉCSO) before being appointed Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, French language, Aboriginal Learning and Research Division.

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