Oakbridges - Labour Relations Strategists

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Occupy the Education System

Fri, 12/14/2012 - 10:18 -- Hugh.Secord

Teach Labour Unionby Hugh Secord

On September 17, 2011 a protest movement began in New York called Occupy Wall Street. It was initiated by a group of Canadian activists who operate under the name Adbusters. The purpose of the movement, which spread in the subsequent months after the first protests across North America, was to simply point out the greed and corruption in the financial sector and amongst certain giant corporations. The movement never intended to make changes per se, it was intended to make a point.

I’d like to make a point about the current labour disruptions amongst Teachers and the province of Ontario. As a long-service labour relations specialist I can readily sympathize with the Teachers with respect to the restriction the government has placed on their bargaining rights. I believe that government interventions into collective bargaining tend to damage the process and hurt the relationship over the long term. Good, bad or indifferent at some point the province made it lawful for Teachers to organize, bargaining collectively and exercise their right to strike. They have a point in suggesting we should respect that.

However, there is something greater at stake here. Our children are unwitting pawns in a political struggle. While they may have bargaining rights, Teachers are also professionals who have supposedly entered a “calling”. I honestly have difficulty reconciling how their interests supersede their professional responsibilities. Surely one consideration holds greater weight than the other and for my money the education of our children should be the first priority for the Teachers.

Are the kids who will suffer through this dispute to be forgotten? As a parent I say we should collectively get involved and Occupy the Education System. What I mean precisely is let’s not let our children sacrifice their growth for the interests of a group of professionals.  As parents we can get involved to ensure there are extra-curricular activities for our kids to participate in. Organize a dance, coach a team, facilitate a field trip. Everyone these days seems entitled to a voice - why not lend our voice to the interests of our children?

Please leave your questions and/or comments below.


Submitted by Brian.McArthur on

The right to organize, bargain and strike are 'rights' only insofar as government allows those rights to exist. There is one caveat, however, in that the right to bargain collectively is a section 2 (d) charter protected right only to the extent that governments in Canada have an obligation to meet and confer in good faith over changes in terms and conditions of employment before they impose agreements on unionized workers (see: B.C. Health Services). In my opinion, professional obligations trump labor issues when there is a conflict. Professional codes of conduct must prevail or the other competing interests. Teachers, as individual professionals, must put themselves above the interests of the collective. They must choose student interests over their own. As for the government meeting it's obligations under existing law, I seriously doubt they have meet their legitimate obligations to meet and confer over the issue to the extent that a bona fide impasse has taken place. My suggestions for the Teachers is to not escalate the situation by engaging in industrial actions that will only harm students. Use the Courts ... use political influence ... use reason, not rhetoric.

Submitted by Sue.Mackintosh on

I agree that the bargaining process is best left to run its course. The teachers and the school boards will naturally reach the most efficient conclusions via the bargaining process and any imposed or third party involvement is likely to lead to more costly solutions and hard feelings. I also agree that professionals such as teachers and nurses and engineers for example are not served well by a traditional collective agreement and union approach (but that’s the topic of another conversation). It is misguided and wrong in my view that the union is demanding their members cancel these activities and threaten to fine professionals for doing what is best for the kids. These actions can and may be challenged by the teachers and in my view will backfire as it is divisive amongst the teachers.

As a family that has spent many parent hours at the schools augmenting the work of teachers and helping to ensure our kids have extracurricular activities which went beyond that which the teachers could manage, so it is familiar to take this over. Perhaps we do have to Occupy the Schools and keep these programs going. My observation is that teachers gain satisfaction from this “extra” work, as do parents. Most importantly it benefits the kids – that’s our collective responsibility.

Submitted by Bill.Thorp on

The irony in this current struggle cannot be missed. If the parties to this collective bargaining process did not have a history of behaving like children, there would not be a need for legislation and children would not be involved in this battle. Put another way, our children, on the journey to becoming adults, need examples of behaviors from people who are prepared to be role models, not supposedly mature adults acting like children. Parents can show their displeasure by stepping up to fill the gap left by irresponsible teachers and at the same time, letting their local member of the provinical government know that the parties, besides our children, need to grow up.

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