I’m not going to lie, but I’m on the side of the government in this dispute.
Fact: The Conservative government was elected in the province of Ontario.
Fact: The teachers unions were not elected.
Fact: The government of Ontario makes the laws and policies for the province.
Fact: Teachers unions do NOT make laws or policies. Their mandate is to look after the interests of their membership.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look a bit closer at my bias against unions – I don’t hate unions – I just don’t feel that unions have their place in every single field of employment. Considering that unions were created to give workers a collective voice against employers, I’m not sure today’s employees are so hard done by that they need a collective voice. Especially in light of the pattern or wage increase after wage increase.
That being said… Do the teachers unions, and their actions of rotating strikes benefit their members?
Let me explain.
Many moons ago, I worked for a federal government agency which went on strike 3 times in the 10 plus years that I was there. In each case it was because we did not have a contract. That never concerned me because I had a job, I was being paid, and for the most part, enjoyed my job.
After living through a couple of strikes, I came to realize that striking was more than just walking off the job and forcing the government to give us a raise. I had never walked a picket line, why would I?
That was until the 3rd strike, when I started to do some math.
I realized this:
Our union wanted a 1 1/2 percent wage increase. The government wanted to hold salaries at the same level because times were tough.
We walked off the job for the week. I checked in at the picket line to receive my $50/day “strike pay”. After a week the government and union reached an agreement and we received 1%.
We lost more than 1% while on strike.
So we walked the picket line and lost money.
That doesn’t make sense, now does it…
So let’s look at the Ontario teachers and use some very round figures.
Fact: The average teacher salary in Ontario is $92,000 per year.
Fact: The average teacher makes $1,769.23 per week before taxes.
Fact: The average teacher makes $353.85 per day, before taxes.
Fact: If the union accepted the 1% pay increase, Ontario teachers would have received a raise of $920 per year.
That means if the Ontario teachers are off the job more than 3 times ($353.85 x 3 = $1,061.55), then they will lose money once the new agreement is signed, even if you add in the $50 strike pay per day.
That’s crazy, right?
Unions forcing their teachers to walk the picket line in order to lose money. The Ontario government should thank them.
But beyond the lack of fiscal responsibility, comes the issues of government funding, special needs funding, class sizes and online courses.
Let’s briefly look at those:
- Government funding. Fact: The Ontario Conservative party has spent more money on the public education system than the previous Liberal government. Based on the fact that teacher salaries increase every year, the government would have to cut a lot in order to spend less. But they have not. It’s akin to the Democrats in the US telling media sources that they were going to impeach the President of the US before the President had even taken office, the rhetoric began to fly in Ontario before the government even announced how much the education budget was going to be. Interesting bargaining / foreshadowing
- The Conservative government has spent more money on special needs education than any party before them. Listen to the unions and special interest groups and you would be led to believe otherwise. When presented with facts, such as total dollars spent, these groups just state that the information is not accurate. That’s a convenient argument.
- Class sizes. So this is a tough one because there are no studies which state a specific class size is the perfect class size. It’s up to the Minister of Education to determine and not the unions. Dare I be skeptical here and say that of course class sizes are too big for unions. That means more work. It would be so much better – possibly – if it were a 1-to-1 ratio, because that means more teachers and more teachers means more union dues, which means a more powerful union. It also means more money that unions can spend on ads attacking the government rather than on education which they claim to care so much about.
- Online courses. I understand why the unions are all over this one. It means at the outset, less teachers, which means less dues-paying members, which means less power for the union. It doesn’t have to be that way, but with teachers salaries always increasing, it’s not like they’re going to suddenly give themselves pay cuts, right?The fact here is that Ontario was spent into massive debt and deficit amounts thanks to the Liberal government. Everyone who elected the Conservatives did so knowing that they were going to have to tighten their belts. (This over-spending must be a Liberal strategy to ensure that they get re-elected). Apparently the teachers and unions are exempt from this, and forgetting that these are our tax dollars being spent on their wages. I don’t even have children in the public education system anymore, but I’m paying for their salaries.
With all of that being said, spend some time browsing the Internet for countries and cities who have push for more online courses and you will find educated, high-achieving communities taking advantage of technology and moving ahead of the pack.
Heck, I completed my MBA online, and would have benefited from having prior experience taking online courses. Every organization that I volunteer with requires me to take online courses. Why is this good for the rest of the world, but not good enough for Ontario? Because the teacher’s unions tell us it’s a bad thing???
None of that makes sense to me.
What does make sense is the fact that these unions have decided year-over-year to put their interests over those of the students that they claim to support. If they really felt that it was all about the students, then let them run for election under that platform and see how they do. If they win, great, give them a raise. If they lose, then no more putting self-serving interests over top of the students.
Just my two-cents worth.