What are McGuinty’s Liberals doing to Teachers in Ontario? A View from Within…

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation vs. Ontario Liberals.

Last week I posted an offer on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheUrbanDaddy) for a guest blogger or 2 and had some positive responses.  One such response came not to that group, but instead, to my email (realurbandaddy@gmail.com).

Those of you in Ontario would be perfectly aware that the governing Liberal government has been putting pressure on the public school teachers, passing an anti-strike bill that cut their benefits and limits the wages for Ontario teachers.  On the Ontario Liberal website, their take on this legislation and it’s impact is outlined here; “Ontario Liberals passed the Putting Students First Act so that parents will have the peace of mind in knowing that the school year will stay on track and education funding will stay where it belongs — in the classroom.”  This is not working at all, with teachers protesting the cuts by not making themselves available for any “extracurricular” activities – sports, art, music, after-school activities and in some cases… curriculum night.

While I do not agree with holding kids hostage for political decisions, there are some arguments which still have to be played out in Queen’s Park, in the media and possibly in court, including; How much have the teachers salaries increased over the past 10 years when private sector salaries have been frozen, or jobs lost, why did the public school teacher’s union not settle with the government when the offer was acceptable for the catholic school teachers, if it’s true that the salaries of public sector employees are 100% paid for by taxpayers (and I am a former public sector employee) then should we not step back for a minute and remember that these employees pay taxes on their salaries and contribute as much as every other tax paying citizen in Ontario.  And one last matter, is curriculum night really extra curricular???

It’s going to get ugly before it gets better, that’s for sure.

So I have an opinion from an actual teacher in Toronto who emailed me his / her thoughts on this matter which I will post below without edit.

Have a read and tell me what you think?

“Teaching, or being a teacher in Ontario.  Right now, as part of a union.  It’s so hard to write these words  because as a human being with thoughts of my own, I am torn in two.   People who know me know that I  hold some fairly conservative fiscal views.  The other part of me is a teacher, who belongs to a union, who is at war with the government.   The part of me that believe in free market enterprise believes that I should have the right to individually negotiate my salary and benefits with my employer based on how much experience and education  as well as success that I bring to the table.  The other part of me I guess is relieved that I don’t have to personally do this every year or 4 years.   I am so scattered on the current subject, but I want to clear up misconceptions:

1.    Teachers want more money.  Untrue. ETFO and OSSTF agreed in principle to a two-year wage freeze last March.  If it were just about the money, this would be over by now.  To understand more deeply though, teachers are on a grid for salary, starting at year 0 and ending in year 11.  You get a raise each year until your 11th year and then you are done.  The only increases you get will come from cost of living increases negotiated by the union (in the neighborhood of 1-2% usually).  Unions were more than happy to freeze those at the top, but were asking that younger and brand new teachers still be allowed to move on the grid with each year of experience.  The government disagreed.  How would you feel?  Now, in fact, this piece doesn’t affect me.  I am past year 11.  I am just frozen, which I don’t actually care about.  But imagine a first year teacher, frozen at first year salary (39,000) working for 2 years, and when they‘unfreeze’ are not given the 2 years of experience they have racked up during the contract.  So despite 2 years of service, when the teacher starts at year 0, when they unfreeze they will go to year 1.  Most teachers will lose a huge amount of money this way and it is unfair. It is overly generous to me who has nothing to lose, and penalizes those coming up behind me.

2.    Why are teachers bitching about sick days when they already get 2 plus months off a year? Let me clear this one up too. Summer for teachers is in fact unpaid. We are prorated during the year and a percentage of our salaries is held back off of each pay.  In our last pay in June, we are given the heldout money that the board reserved from our pay during the year so we can survive the summer months.   Let’s be clear, we are not on paid vacation.  Why do we need 20 sick days?  Easy, because the vast majority of working people (and we get this, we honestly do) will send their sick child to school.  And children by nature are the worst at spreading germs.  I have literally been vomited upon.  I’ve had a child with bronchitis cough in my face. I have caught more flus and strep throats and colds than I can remember.  I don’t use sick days for fun.  I, like many other teachers understand how hard it is for you to arrange child care or take a day off work yourself.  So the choice is either YOU get more sick days or I do.  Quite frankly I’d be thrilled if all parents kept their sick children at home because they had their own bank of sick days, but they don’t, so teachers do.

3.    So I addressed having our sick days cut in half, and not being allowed to carry them over year to year.  The not carrying over part bothers me, and the cut in sick days bother me.  Here’s the part that doesn’t – gratuity pay when you retire.  Essentially, in the past if you didn’t use your sick days, you’d get a big cheque at the end (nowadays the top payout was about 46,000, not bad right?).  Many unions have already given up this benefit, and I don’t think we teachers have a leg to stand on for this.  I won’t fight for it.  People in the private sector don’t get this, and as more public contracts come up you will see the retirement gratuity go the way of the dinosaur. All I am asking for is my sick days, to bank them, and if I don’t use them, when I retire, they vanish.  Fair enough?

Here’s where we get into tricky territory for me.  We have lost the right to strike, or to collectively bargain, essentially rendering our unions useless, and the dues we must pay to them every month a complete waste of our money.   Anyone who knows me from the past knows that I’ve always lived this double life of hating unions while being a member of one.  I am now in the spot of having to seriously reevaluate all my thoughts and feelings on this issue.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say that MY union should be able to collectively bargain and the rest should fold.  It would go against my most inner beliefs.  I can’t help that I chose a profession that is unionized.  I have had times in the last few years where my union(s) came to my aid: when I was unjustly reprimanded by an administrator, the union was there, and helped me navigate a diplomatic and well thought out counter offence that saw the accusation and reprimand go away.  I was grateful at that moment to know there were people who “had my back”.  I got angry four years ago when the union I was in at the time went for major increases in salary in a crappy economy, and more shocked still to see the McGuinty government GIVE it to us.   It was unnecessary and probably put us where we are today.

Now that we are legislated with “Putting Kids First” which we always did anyway, let’s talk about actual outcomes for the government.   They will save (they say) 468 milllion dollars over the course of the 2 years. They are fighting a 15 billion dollar deficit.  For those good at math, he just solved 1/30thof the problem while alienating most of his base (of which I am not one).  If he had wanted to create a larger impact, he should have gone after the entire public sector, with one huge piece of legislation, freezing everyone, everywhere, making us work unpaid days, and cancelling gratuities and collective bargaining everywhere.  But he didn’t.  He attacked teachers.  And that’s where I feel stung the most.  Teachers don’t want to put students in the middle of this, but it’s all they have left. I have watched the news and seen how many individual schools have announced no extra-curriculars for the forseeable future.  Ladies and gents, I hate to say it, but I believe within the next two weeks this will be province wide, and there is even talk that the Catholic teachers will follow suit, as most of them have yet to ratify the deal their leaders took which they felt betrayed them.   Is Putting Kids First ensuring that they have demeaned, hostile teachers?  Is having students essentially living through 2 years of work to rule worth it?   Like I said, I am still sorting this out for myself and asking myself what I think I can live with.   I don’t have answers, but I am tired of that panicky feeling at the bottom of my stomach for what comes next.

As a teacher I am tired of being called every name in the book – lazy, greedy, short hours, blah blah. All of it untrue.  Tired of having to defend myself and I won’t anymore.  No one in the private sector would be shamed for hoping for a raise based on their performance, why do we vilify those in the public sector who hope for the same?  I hate to say it, but us public sector people, we ARE the middle class, and we are the stable jobs that pay into the tax base and keep things alive while private interests go bust.   So please, stop telling me you pay my salary, I pay my salary too.

I am tired of the government PR campaign that seems to say all teachers want is more money, and I’m sick and tired of seeing that my union who has a well defined position (we just don’t want to lose our right to collective bargaining) be completely unable to get the message out.  In the PR wars, we have lost, and lost big, and in doing so have alientated the public.  It’s hard to be a teacher today in Ontario, but I will carry on as I always have, teaching to the best of my ability, and I didn’t need Dalton to condescend to me to “Put Kids First”.  I always have.  But I’m not a volunteer or a nun.  He needs to remember that.”

16 responses

  1. Warren: this is a great guest post. Thanks! I have shared it because it made me challenge my assumptions. I assumed it was money related and I was hopping on the liberal bandwagon. Now I am absolutely in agreement that this is a PR battle. It’s difficult to know the truth when it being spun.

  2. Thank you for the insightful message. Just like a bitter divorce between parents putting the children against the other parent, the teachers have placed the kids against the government. ANYONE that uses the children as a weapon and to brainwash them to better their cause should be ashamed of themselves. Where is the children’s aid society in all of this? My son came home and said that there will be no sports because of the government!!! WOW Put children first – not first in the line of fire. Teachers think that they are above the rest of us and the rest of us are waking up.

  3. Don’t forget, teachers were stripped of the bargaining rights. They were written out of the human rights code and labour relations act. A far bigger issue than salary, sick days or extracurricular. The public sat back and watched it happen and now complain about sports not being offered. What happened to democracy and human rights. All workers in Ontario deserve the same rights. Many teachers choose to put their energys into their classroom programs. That’s the most important part of the job. Education is a great equalizer. I have never understood how so many teachers can spend so much time coaching and have a really good program. You can’t have it all. Unions have brought workers into the middle class, not a perfect structure but I shudder to think what work would be like without them especially after reading the publics views about a profession which should be respected.

  4. Thanks for the great comment. I find when researching for some of my posts, I have to really look hard at the sources to see if I’m getting the actual truth or a political slant, In this case, I looked at what both sides were putting out and then I looked at the special interest groups and finally the media to see if there were common themes throughout.

    It’s crazy nowadays… In the end, the kids are suffering and that is not right.

  5. Hi B,

    Thanks for the comment. Its funny the way you worded your comment, when you said your son told you there was no sports because of the government, and I have now heard that from many other parents. It must have been a union mandate to send the kids home after brainwashing them about how bad the government is – and I’ll be honest – I’m a Conservative, but for as much as the government is to blame for letting it get to this and for not having the fiscal restraint to keep Ontario out of debt, the unions could have come to table and accepted what their colleagues in the other boards did…

    It’s like the NHL lockout… Greedy owners, greedy players, fans lose.

    Greedy government, greedy union, kids lose.

  6. Hi Geo,

    You made some good points but you are not going to find any fans of unions here… As a former unionized employee for over 10 years I can say that they’re time and need are past. No one is forcing teachers to work 18 hour days, nor are they being paid $1.00 an hour.

    As for life without unions… I wouldn’t shudder but I could see tenured teachers who are terrible fired instead of coddled and I think since we’re talking about the public service, if teachers are so important then make them an essential service. Sadly, doing that would take away their bargaining rights – which you and I have in our private sector jobs, right?

    If I get offered a 1% increase and tell my employer I’ll stop working until I get a 4% increase and I’m probably very soon after looking for a new job.

    They need to compromise, then toss the Liberals (and teachers union) out on their behinds.

  7. Essential service is a great idea. The reason teachers weren’t made an essential service is that you can’t strip essential service workers benefits. The arbitrators won’t allow it. The teachers benefit package was targeted. They have backed off of cops, firefighters etc because they know they can’t. The government was merely posturing about freezing cops to throw off the public that they were targeting a employee group that are primarily women. There is a very good, legis lated evaluation system for teachers. Teachers are let go or take courses to improve. There are very few bad ones anymore. Remember it’s about democracy for this group and you have all been snowed.

  8. Hi Geo,

    You made some more interesting points, however I have not been snowed. Not in the least. The “attack” on benefit packages is not just a personal attack against “primarily” women – but if you have seen what happened to Greece you must admit that overly generous retirement packages are not worth the paper they are written on and can bankrupt a whole country, let alone a province the size of Ontario.

    In addition, if teachers already have a legislated evaluation system – and I know they have pay scales – then why do they need union representation? They have all the tools already in place so why get someone else to negotiate with your employer? If everything is in writing there should be no need to need representation and thus no need to require annual 3% raises. They can do what the rest of the world has to do and that is to wait and see if their employer made enough money for bonuses and raises. The entitlement slays me…

  9. Contracts are broken all the time and unions protect workers. I’ve had 3 careers. Some non and some unionized . The best ones are unionized and that’s my reality. Teachers didn’t bring Ontario to this, ORNGE, ehealth,power plants. Teachers are a diversion. You have been snowed . Other groups haven’t been stripped. Take OPG employes. They have a raise. 2 years college, retirement benefits , great benefits including short term and long term disability. Check the sunshine list. 140000 a year. 7 weeks holiday. Senior workers mostly but not all. I know many of them personally . This is Canada, democracy is key. You seem to think that any group can be targeted as long as they say its for austerity. I guess it’s all right as long as they don’t come for you. The teacher unions agreed to a freeze a long time ago. It wasn’t about a freeze. There is no bargaining with this government. The deception is astounding.

  10. Amazing article! Thanks for taking the time to share this info. I am part of an ETFO local that does not receive a payout for banked sick days upon retirement (one of various locals who don’t have a gratuity anymore). I agree with you entirely, I don’t need paid for them at the end, but I have already seen specific groups of people (i.e. pregnant teachers, members with chronic illness or terminal illness) suffer incredibly as a result of this legislation. I see it as an equity issue, when people are in a situation where they CAN’T schedule essential medical appointments outside of the working day. I would like to add too, that we traded 4% vacation pay for increased sick days, based on the environment we work in. Thanks again, enjoyed your article!

  11. [...] What are McGuinty’s Liberals doing to Teachers in Ontario? A View from Within… (urbandaddy.wordpress.com) [...]

  12. 2 major points struck me in reading this….

    He says “We have lost the right to strike, or to collectively bargain, essentially rendering our unions useless, and the dues we must pay to them every month a complete waste of our money. ” Well, I think he can thank his union for that…. if they had spent more than 1 hour at the bargaining table, maybe we would have believed that they were bargaining in good faith and really trying to work out a deal. As it stands, it feels like the union is holding the government hostage and not accepting the reality that they need to give a little too. Yes, the public sat back and watched it happen, because it feels like the union were strong-arming the government and not really trying to negotiate a settlement.

    He also says “Teachers don’t want to put students in the middle of this, but it’s all they have left.” This one is particularly disgusting. It’s like saying that someone bigger than me is picking on me, so all that I can do is pick on the next smaller guy. And yet, he professes to be putting students first. In reality, it’s not all they have left. They have other options. They have litigation which is taking place and will determine if what the government did was legal. Why not settle the matter in court. You are losing the PR war because you are bullying young children who are not responsible for your current situation, not because your unions message is lost.

    In short, all the people of Ontario are going to be the biggest losers when frustrated voters decide to check of Hudak’s name on the ballot box next time around because they know he’ll be tough on the unions, who are holding our babies hostage.

  13. HMMM, $90K plus for part time employment and you don’t get paid for summer vacation. What a joke, dream on.
    Anyone ever have a conversation with a teacher that didn’t include one of: I’m not paid enough, early retirement or how bad my students are? No it’s not about the money, it’s your mandate to teach our children how to be bullies and to put themselves first.

    Maybe all teachers should have a real job before they teach. Some actual experience with something other than schooling might provide some credibility.

  14. Hi Max,

    Thank you for taking time to post your comment and I cannot disagree with you that this recent action by the unions – not so much the teachers – really did a diservice to the profession.

    I also felt that way growing up and it wasn’t until I married a teacher and saw the amount of work she puts in each day – they’re like performers and have to be on every minute of every day – and then coming home at night and marking, responding to colleagues and parents, tutoring, then planning the next day – meant my wife was on teh go from 6am to 10pm, then she went to bed. This is every day, including catching up on weekends. She needs the summers to decompress.

    I then thought about all my experiences through my coporate career and all the terrible trainers I have had, or presenters I have had to endure through and then how awful I am at presenting, but how much I love training people, and I realized it’s not an easy task to be that good, and that on all the time.

    So based on my experiences, I cut the profession some slack.

    I do, however, not agree with the tactics of the union and having worked in an unionized environment for almost 11 years, I feel that is where the fail occured. Teachers want to teach, much like those in business want to sell and those in the service industry want to serve.

    It’s when a 3rd party with their own agenda stepped in that things went wrong.

    As for your comment about teachers getting a “real job” I’d have to say that I think everyone can benefit from having experience in a profession that is not in their normal area of expertise. I worked in a warehouse before working at the CRA, then I managed a tax department of a financial services company, then a VP at a bank. All completely different and I’m thankful for that (plus I worked in a snack bar, card store, gift store, camp councillor and customizing pens and mugs with corporate logos).

    But to be fair, people like yourself, should also try your hand at teaching just to get a different perspective.

    Hope you come back soon. I’m happy to hear your thoughts on some of my other political views. You made some really valid points.

    Regards,

    Warren

  15. DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE OF THE ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TEACHERS
    BETWEEN:
    ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TEACHERS
    and
    GORDANA ANNE STEFULIC

    NOTICE OF HEARING

    THE INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE OF THE ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TEACHERS, pursuant to section 26, subsection (5) of the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 (the Act), Statutes of Ontario, 1996, chapter 12, has directed that the matter hereinafter described regarding the conduct or actions of Gordana Anne Stefulic, Certificate No176236 , be referred to the Discipline Committee of the Ontario College of Teachers.

    IT IS ALLEGED that Gordana Anne Stefulic is guilty of professional misconduct as defined in subsections 30(2) and 40(1.1) of the Act in that:
    (a) she failed to maintain the standards of the profession, contrary to Ontario
    Regulation 437/97, subsection 1(5);

    (b) she abused a student or students physically, sexually, verbally, psychologically or emotionally, contrary to Ontario Regulation 437/97, subsection 1(7) and engaged in sexual abuse of a student or students of a nature defined in sections 1 and 40 (1.1) of the Act;

    (c) she failed to comply with the Education Act, Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1990, chapter E.2, and specifically section 264(1)(c) thereof or the Regulations made under that Act, contrary to Ontario Regulation 437/97, subsection 1(15);

    (d) she committed acts that having regard to all the circumstances would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional, contrary to Ontario Regulation 437/97, subsection 1 and

    (e) she engaged in conduct unbecoming a Member, contrary to Ontario Regulation
    437/97, subsection 1(19).

    PARTICULARS OF THESE ALLEGATIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
    1. Gordana Anne Stefulic (the Member) is a member of the Ontario College of
    Teachers.
    2. At all material times, the Member was employed by the Toronto District School Board
    (the Board) as a Principal at [XX] School (the School) in Ontario.

    3. During the 2007-2008 academic year, the Member granted and/or permitted Student No. 1
    and Student No. 2, two male students of the Board under the age of sixteen years, entry
    and/or access to her Facebook page and by so doing, allowed Student No. 1 and Student
    No. 2 to access inappropriate and/or view material including:

    (a) A photographic image of a male person without a shirt, wearing a Speedo bathing suit and titled, Meal of the Day;
    (b) A drawing showing a naked woman depicting her breasts and a naked man holding a string which was tied to his well endowed penis.
    4. During the 2007-2008 academic year, the Member,

    (a) permitted a student and/or students to have access to a personal laptop computer which she knew or ought to have known contained images of a pornographic nature or erotic nature, which appeared to depict young adolescent males;
    (b) permitted a student and/or students to have access to the classroom computer which she knew or ought to have known contained pornographic images and/or violent cartoon images and/or images of naked bodies;
    (c) requested and/or allowed Student No. 3, Student No. 4 and Student No. 5, male students, to give her a massage; and
    (d) made no efforts to deter or prevent a student and/or students from seeking to massage her back.
    THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE WILL HOLD A HEARING pursuant to sections 30 and 32 of the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996, to decide whether the allegations are true and whether Gordana Anne Stefulic is guilty of professional misconduct. A copy of the Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee and of the Fitness to Practise Committee will be provided upon request.

    THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE WILL MEET on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. to set a date for the hearing of this matter. The Committee will meet on the 12th floor of the offices of the Ontario College of Teachers at 101 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

    YOU ARE ENTITLED TO BE PRESENT ON THE ABOVE MENTIONED DATE AND AT THE HEARING AND TO BE REPRESENTED BY LEGAL COUNSEL.

    If you wish, you or your legal counsel may contact College Counsel to discuss the scheduling of a hearing date to determine whether a date for the hearing can be agreed upon. If a date for the hearing can be agreed to, in accordance with Rule 4.02(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee and of the Fitness to Practise Committee, the hearing will proceed on the agreed date.

    IF A DATE FOR THE HEARING OF THIS MATTER IS NOT AGREED UPON AND YOU DO NOT ATTEND TO SET A DATE FOR THE HEARING OF THIS MATTER, THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE MAY PROCEED IN YOUR ABSENCE TO SET A DATE FOR THE HEARING. NOTICE OF THE HEARING DATE WILL BE PROVIDED TO YOU IN WRITING AT YOUR LAST KNOWN ADDRESS AS SHOWN IN THE RECORDS OF THE COLLEGE.

    IF YOU DO NOT ATTEND ON THE SCHEDULED HEARING DATE, THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE MAY PROCEED IN YOUR ABSENCE AND YOU WILL NOT BE PROVIDED WITH ANY FURTHER NOTICE OF PROCEEDINGS.

    IF THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE FIND YOU GUILTY of professional misconduct, you are liable to the penalties set out in section 30 of the Act.

    A MEMBER whose conduct is being investigated in proceedings before the Discipline Committee may examine before the hearing any written or documentary evidence that will be produced or any report, the contents of which will be given as evidence at the hearing. You or your representative may contact the office of Caroline Zayid of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, solicitor for the College in this matter, at Suite 5300, Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, Toronto, ON M5K 1E6, telephone 416-601-
    7768.

    Date: January 14,2013

    Michael Salvatori, OCT
    Registrar and Chief Executive Officer
    Ontario College of Teachers
    12th Floor, 101 Bloor Street West
    Toronto, ON M5S 0A1

    TO: Gordana Anne Stefulic
    [XX] [XX]

    AND TO: Calderoni Steer Wanderon McTavish & Smith LLP
    2 Sheppard Ave E
    North York ON M2N 5Y7
    Dale Stump, Solicitor for the
    Member

    B E T W E E N :
    ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TEACHERS and GORDANA ANNE STEFULIC
    DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE OF THE ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TEACHERS
    NOTICE OF HEARING
    McCarthy Tétrault LLP
    Suite 5300
    Toronto Dominion Bank Tower
    Toronto, ON M5K 1E6

    Caroline R. Zayid
    Tel. 416 601-7768
    Fax 416 868-0673

    David E. Leonard
    Tel. 416 601-7684
    Fax 416 868-0673

    Solicitors for the
    Ontario College of Teachers

    #12685381

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