So the NHL and the NHLPA have come to an agreement that the 2012-2013 NHL season has to be saved and they have agreed to end the lockout. Excuse me if I do not jump for joy. This, the third work stoppage in the past, what, 10 years has done even more damage to my love for the game and more specifically for the love of the NHL. I may (will) be back, I don’t know when, but it won’t be the same.
A couple of days prior to the ending of the NHL lockout, another labour disruption seemingly came close to an end when the Ontario Liberal government used the powers of Bill 115 to put in place a contact, for the next year-and-a-half, for the public school teachers whose union was the only union that did not reach an agreement with the government. Somehow the union seemed blindsided by the government who told them very publically that they had until December 31st to negotiate a contact otherwise one would be imposed on them.
Hardly labour peace in both cases, eh?
Both both these labour disruptions have a common thread that is worth looking at. In both cases, it was the unions which steered the ship for it’s members and it both situations there were members who felt that a deal should be reached but were strong-armed into line by the union they pay dues to.
Is this something new? Of course not. When I spent almost 11 years as a unionized member of the Canadian government I witnessed much of the same from the union representatives, the same representatives who side with you against big, bad, evil management who want to have maximum productivity at the most cost-effective price. Apparently this could be seen as management taking advantage of it’s workforce.
Heaven forbid if you get on the bad side of the union, however… That you can never live down. A former colleague of mine had recently divorced and with a young child, needed to be paid during one of the many labour disruptions we lived through, so he crossed the picket line and went to do his job.
As a result, he was bullied the rest of his time at the office. The union made it known to everyone that he had done this, and yes, they called him names. They called him “scab”. They also threatened to sue him for the wages he earned while working and they kicked him out of the union but made him still pay his $500/year wages.
Think that is weird?
In the Ontario teachers dispute, the union, not the government, nor the teachers halted extracurricular activities, that ban came from the top brass at Ontario Secondary school Teachers Federation, even though the union currently runs ads saying the government is in the way of the extracurricular activities.
So it should come to no one’s surprise then, that an Ottawa-area teacher did just this and continued to lead extracurricular activities in class. She stated that she was phoned and threatened by a union official with a fine. The OSSTF also posts the information of those who violate its orders in its publicly accessible newsletter which is amount to a public shaming. With the union putting such severe restrictions on its members, it is no surprise that very few teachers attempt to hold activities for students.
With many teacher-friends and being married to a teacher, I have come to understand a couple of things;
1) Teachers work very hard outside of the classroom marking and preparing lessons and no teacher should ever have to justify their hours they work, their well-earned vacation or how hard it is to be the educator standing in front of the students day in and day out, keeping their attention, getting the message across and helping these students learn.
2) Teachers should be marked essential services along with emergency services operations and public transit, in Toronto its the TTC.
Public school teachers work for the government. The government pays their salaries presumably from tax dollars they collect from every citizen – except this government who are paying it through a massive line of credit.
In my life I have also learned that bullying is wrong and the more we stand up to bullying the better we will all be, but how can you stand up to your union – let them know how your really feel – when they force you to not take work home at night needed to prepare for your next day by checking your bags as you leave and threatening to fine you if something is found.
The unions have all the power and to justify their agenda they have put Ontario’s students in the middle of this labour mess. And for what? Because they disagree with the language in Bill 115 (Oddly called “Putting Student’s First”) which takes away the unions right to strike. Somehow they call this bill “undemocratic” and a “violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms“. They feel this way because they are used to a “negotiation” pattern with the government through which they ask for the most, threaten a work stoppage and then meet somewhere in the middle. It’s not their fault, it’s the way unions work – getting the most for their members at the least amount of stress and output.
Surely those in unions can look at those of us in the private sector who do not get to negotiate annual raises with our employer, who can be terminated with or without cause and who work for organizations who are profit oriented and understand our frustration with their bullying of the teachers, of the government and the absolute dicking around with our children. They know that we read the papers too and that in a prolonged recession, like the one we have been in since 2008 there is job loss, wage restrictions and bonuses or raises… lol… almost non-existent. We understand when times are tough people need to tighten their belts and cut costs, which is why a guaranteed 2.5% annual raise makes many of us shake our heads and side with the employer.
As with every labour negotiation, especially in recessionary times, it’s best to take away the focus on the wage increase and have that attention turned elsewhere.
To even suggest that a “Day of Protest” was needed, the first week back to school for many children was a public relations disaster for the union and it made many parents who had already been subject to rotating strikes livid with the unions tactics. Then, upon finding out that no matter what they called their forced day off, it was illegal, they cancelled it, without apology for the parents who again had to scramble to find alternate arrangements for their children, at a cost to the families.
The union’s short-sighted attempts to win public favour and shame the government is back-firing on them and like the NHLPA who claimed these labour negotiations were NOT about money but about the next generation of players who might never get a chance to negotiate their own collective agreement, the public saw right through that when the NHL players took off overseas to take jobs from players over there.
It is about the money.
It is about the power.
Getting there by whatever means necessary is no longer the way to go. Frustrated parents are going to do what many of us already have and send their children to private schools which is going to lead to a reduction in the number of students enrolled in public schools and ultimately require a reduction in the public workforce. Surely that cannot be the ultimate goal of the higher-ups at the OSSTF? Or parents who would blindly trust their teachers are now going to second guess what the teacher is doing or saying because if they REALLY cared about the students, then why would they be withholding extracurricular activities from the students – especially those in lower – middle class neighbourhoods where there is no where near as much disposable income to take the children to daycamps or the Science Centre on the strike days.
So next time you look at these two labour situations and proudly proclaim that you are with the teachers / players, have a look at the organization you work at and see what they do when there is not enough money to cover expenses. Do they ask people to cut back or do they spend themselves into bankruptcy? Would you do that at home with your finances?
I didn’t think so.
While I disagree with the way the Ontario government handled this situation and many other situations during Dalton’s time as Premier I found a couple things very disturbing. First, that he stepped down while this issue was festering and secondly that they used Bill 115 and then stated they were going to repeal it at the end of the month. That does not sound like a government who were clean to it’s employees or to the public.
Should the Liberal government force it’s employees to tow the party line and take a page from the book of former US President Ronald Regan with his much publicized “negotiation” with the air traffic controllers when he fired them all, hired new ones, and then hired back select employees who would agree to accept the job outside of a union? Probably not. I don’t think we’re there yet.
What I would have liked to have seen is a listing of wages, costs, revenues and expenses in order to justify the actions taken to force doctors to take a pay cut and teachers into this situation, but I would also like to see the union fight this in court where they promised they would be fighting it and to stop putting the teachers, the students and the parents in the middle of their issue with their employer.
At the end of the day these games offend hard-working citizens. When unions force teachers to cease extracurricular activities, provide the least amount of information on report cards, and not fully prepare for their classes – do the least possible work – it makes parents question the teachers loyalty. Seeing these teachers on the picket lines dancing and hamming it up for unnecessary and embarrassing for their profession, in the same way calling an employee a scab for needing to put food on the table and paying for rent is unnecessary.
If the unions think the public are quickly going to forget this or blindly side with them they why are they running ads telling the public that the government is withholding activities or why are teachers permitted to “educate” students on this labour disruption only from a left-wing view? Why can’t they explain both sides and let the children decide who they feel is in the right?
There are over 23,000 likes on the Facebook page called “Just Drop It” where frustrated hockey fans pledge to boycott the NHL in protest of the NHL’s treatment of them. People are not forgetting so quickly any more…
These two unions made choices for themselves which negatively impacted everyone but them.
They want your support.
They want you to believe they are doing this for their members and that they have full support of their members.
They do have considerable support of their members but through what means have they got it and how do they keep it?
I think it’s time to take the bullying out of the schools once and for all. It’s the only way we are going to see true labour peace.
- NHL lockout timeline: Let’s remember the whole nightmare (sbnation.com)
- Teachers’ fight belongs in court, not the classroom, says McGuinty (thestar.com)
- What the NHL Lockout Reveals About Capital and Labor (blogs.hbr.org)