09.13.2012 07:14 AM

Teachers, taught

The most pro-union paper in the country:

…the moral high ground that teachers’ unions claim to occupy is slipping away..the unions are exploiting ordinary Ontarians for their own pecuniary purposes.

How can teachers explain to students and parents that they will now be used as pawns in a pointless struggle that is mostly about union leaders saving face and venting anger?

With the battle lost, teachers may think they are fighting for next time. But any party in power would treat teachers more or less the same way as the governing Liberals — as they have in the past — because the money is not there…

It’s beneath teachers to bring their political fight into the schoolyard. The unions have already punished McGuinty for overreaching and rushing things, and they will have plenty of opportunity to play the parties off against each other in future campaigns.

Keep the kids out of it.

Nobody on the public payroll should be allowed to “bank” sick days. Nobody – particularly post-recession – should expect big raises anymore.

The teachers had the moral high ground, as Cohn says. They’ve now lost it.


  1. Skinny Dipper says:

    The reality is that any action that teachers take will be “affecting the students.” Teachers may refuse to take a pause in participating in extra-currcular activities. They may refuse to attend workshops on McGuinty Mondays. That indirectly affects the students. Perhaps in a few weeks or months, the teacher may refuse to act as principal-designate when the principal must leave the school. That affects the students. Teachers may refuse to hand out general school notices. That affects the students. They may refuse to distribute Scholastic order forms and collect money. That affects the students. Every action that teachers may take in the upcoming months will afffect students directly or indirectly.

    Dalton McGuinty and his fellow Ontario Liberals want teachers to continue to providing extra-curricular activities for the students. Why? McGuinty and the Liberals want to be able to tell the people of Ontario that everything is normal in the education system–even after McGuinty got the legislature to impose his “conditions of employment” on the teachers.

    No, McGuinty, the education system will not be normal until your government or the next one agrees to negotiate fairly with the teachers.

    • Thegrumpydwarf says:


    • Chris says:

      If extracurricular activities are so important, why not pay for them?

      Everybody is happy to let teachers dedicate a ridiculous amount of time to teams or clubs for free, but when they withhold those services they are suddenly evil and greedy?

      Count out the hours that teachers spend on weekends and after school working with these groups and pay them the prevailing teachers wage. Don’t forget that weekend and overnight trips mean you are on the clock 24 hours a day.

      Don’t want to do that? Take sports and clubs out of schools and let community groups do it. I’m sure some teachers would join those groups, and it would forever solve the perception that teachers use students as “bargaining chips”.

      • Skinny Dipper says:

        As a commenter mentioned below Cohn’s column, in many European countries, schools do not provide extra curricular activities. I will add a little more information. In central and eastern Europe, students go to school from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In the equivalent of the primary and early junior grades, the students may end at 12:35 on some days. They will get a 20 minute break in the morning and 10 minute breaks between 45 minute classes. They don’t get lunch at school unless they have late classes on one or more days per week. Students in the equivalent of the intermediate and senior grades go to school longer. Depending on the homeroom class, students end school at different times of the day. After school, the students/children may play outside or participate in a community club. Usually, these are subsidized by their state governments with the children’s family paying a token amount to participate.

        The students may do homework in the evening as all the stores and services are usually closed. Even the equivalent of the 7-11 closes at 5 p.m.

        We could have the same subsidized community club system in Ontario. However, who will pay for the young people to participate in the clubs?

  2. Man in the North says:

    The real issue here is McGuinty’s refusal to participate in collective bargaining.

  3. Dan says:

    There are no pro-union papers.

    And this is how the Liberal party loses. By being belligerent towards their supporters, and claiming they have the moral high ground to do so.

    Despite what they say, the voters do have a choice.

  4. Shawn McDonnel says:

    Some unions have agreed to a wage freeze and an end to banking sick days. Those who were negotiating were going in that direction as well. It’s not about pay increases or sick days. The teachers knew those were not returning with the new agreement. It’s about collective bargaining and the right of workers to negotiate their contracts with their government.

    In his 1980 Labor Day address Ronald Reagan noted that, “where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost”. If a guy like Reagan got it, it is truly a shame that a progressive Premier who has done so much for our province and school system does not.

    • smelter rat says:

      Yeah, well then he went ahead and laid off 10,000 air traffic controllers, so i’m not sure he meant what he said.

    • Conservative Socialist says:

      Well, the Reagan quote about unions was said about Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement to score political points against the Soviets and their sympathizers 🙂

      I actually agree with what Reagan did in regards to the air traffic controllers. Air travel is an essential public service, and the union should have never been allowed to hold an entire industry hostage like that.

  5. Marlowe Johnson says:

    when will the press actually report that the government is being dishonest. many unions agreed to a two year wage freeze as asked. and then the gov says nope we want more. opening position with AMAPCEO for example? 4 year wage freeze, 2.5% wage rollback, reduction of paid sick days after 6 to 66%. Virtual elimination of employee benefits. I could go on, but you get the picture. The government IS NOT JUST ASKING FOR A TWO YEAR WAGE FREEZE. If that was all they were after we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    Warren I’d appreciate it if you could have a little chat with your boss about this.

  6. educator says:

    Teachers are not asking for pay raises. They in fact are the one’s who suggested the freeze idea in the first place. What they are asking for is a gov’t to stop playing politics and games with them. They are simply asking to negotiate with their board, or their province whether it be about benefit restructering or working conditions in good faith, to hammer out a deal that is suitable and acceptable and appropriate for the times, and to do it outside of the media spotlight. They also want to know that their rights as citizens to bargain in good faith is respected. They are also asking that their gov’t stop facilitating public backlash with inappropriate soundbites to get the opinions of people who do not know what they speak of.

    McGuinty’s claim as education premier has always been a sham but now he has lost total credibility. He has bitten the hand that feeds him.

  7. truthseeker says:

    “Nobody – particularly post-recession – should expect big raises anymore.”

    Tell that to the big whigs on Bay street. Tell that to MPP’s who have gold plated pensions and benefits, and pay.

    Under that logic, then all public sector workers should receive huge bonuses when times are good. Reality is, when times are good, the private sector gourges, and when times are tough, the public sector needs to pay. Funny thing, contract negotiations have never been linked to the economy unless times are bad then people all of a sudden want to link it to the economy.

    By the way, private sector pay increases have been 2-3% over the last 2 years. Municipal contrcats have also been increased just recently. Just thought you should all know. Look it up it’s all there for anybody to read on statscan or other sources.

    • thegrumpydwarf says:


      …Warren, your man miscalculated on this one. BIG TIME.

      • Bill says:

        Truthseeker, teachers are not big whigs on Bay street or MPP’s. They are teachers. That’s it, that’s all.
        Teachers are not engineers, doctors, lawyers, or dentists, why do you think they should continue to be overpaid?????
        “when times are tough, the public sector needs to pay”……WHAT, the public sector has never paid, it has only
        ballooned since the 70’s. Huge pay and pensions, not sustainable at all. Reality is setting in and governments/taxpayers
        can no longer support the vote buying tactics deployed by many politicians of giving to much for guaranteed vote.

        The truth is the pendulum is finally on the way back down, no longer artificially being fuelled by “funny” money, money that
        doesn’t exist.

        • truthseeker says:

          Hey Yo Will
          Ontario teachers are the best in the world. Ontario student and the sons and daughters of Ontario citizens deserve the best and the brightest teaching them everyday.

          Last time I checked, a teacher is just as important if not more important in society than an MPP, doctor, lawyer, and whomever else you names. Fact is, private sector “fatcats” are the real one’s on the take and that’s a fact.

          Any pensions teachers have are paid for by them, and their benefits are quite modest when compared with most in the private sector. Both of my sisters are accountants and both receive 100% dental coverage. I as a teacher get 80%. That’s just one example that if anyone compares our benefit package against the private sector, it will most likely stand out as being average.

          Wall street, Bay street, and the banks that caused the downturn in the economy should be the one’s paying most at this time, and not the public sector workers. Middle class workers all over the world simply make modes livings and the economy relies on their modest spending to keep things spinning.

  8. Marlowe Johnson says:

    the other thing that bugs me is this idea that teachers have made out like bandits for the last 9 years and should therefore be grateful. Cohn trots out the 25% increase in wages over that time. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But consider that over that same period of time inflation has gone up by over 18%. So we’re looking at an actual increase in take home pay of less than 1% a year. Now how does this compare to the private sector? Since 2003 wage settlements have gone up 22%. I suspect if you look further back in time to include the boom from the 90s and the impact of Harris policies on public sector pay, the gap would be reversed and significantly larger. And yet public sector workers are the ones being greedy.

    If the structural deficit is such a concern, and i’d agree that it is, then surely tax increases should be on the table for any adult conversation about how to proceed. instead all we get is scapegoating of the public sector, which effectively pits one segment of the middle class against the other.

    Lobster politics at its worst, aided and abetted by a press that refuses to let the facts get in the way of good story.

  9. Cath says:

    You’re right Warren and so too is Cohn.

  10. Glen says:

    Nothing wrong with public sector employees getting small pay raises every year.

    The cashing out of sick days needs to stop. Can’t believe it was ever allowed to begin with.

    • Chris says:

      Bankable sick days (which fewer than half of contracts even have any more) were negotiated in lieu of pay increases many years ago.

      They are an anachronism, sure, but one that was agreed to by employers and employees.

      Very few teachers are fighting because of the loss of bankable days – we are not idiots, and we know what public opinion is on them.

  11. Marlowe Johnson says:

    most public sector workers haven’t been able to bank sick days for over 20 years. I agree though that it never should have been put in place to begin with.

  12. Chris says:

    The battle is not lost. There are provisions in Bill 115 that can and will drastically affect what it means to be a teacher in Ontario such as changes to grid movement and experience based pay as well as a clause that will eventually see us lose the right to bargain with our employers.

  13. Mike says:

    How do you explain the gratuities the MPP’s receive when they retire?
    MPP Severance Plan
    Four years or less of service – 50% of salary*

    More than four years, less than eight – 100% of salary

    More than eight years – 150% of salary

    * Salary used for calculation is the average salary over the last 36 months prior to retirement or resignation.

    Premier Dalton McGuinty
    Date elected: Sept. 1990

    Years of service to date: 21.9

    Average annual salary over three years: $208,974

    Multiplier for severance: 150%

    Eligible for severance payment of: $313,461

    Finance Minister Dwight Duncan
    Date elected: June 1995

    Years of service to date: 17.2 years

    Average annual salary over three years: $165,851

    Multiplier for severance: 150%

    Eligible for severance payment of: $248,777

    Education Minister Laurel Broten
    Date elected: Oct. 2003

    Years of service to date: 8.8 years

    Average annual salary over three years: $164,038

    Multiplier for severance: 150%

    Eligible for severance payment of: $246,057

    Former MPP Leona Dombrowsky
    Elected: June 1999 – October 2011

    Years of Service: 12.3 years

    Average annual salary over three years: $165,851

    Multiplier for severance: 150%

    Eligible for severance payment of: $248,777

    MPP with no Additional Responsibilities
    Date elected: October 2011

    Years of service: 10 months

    Average annual salary over three years: $116,550

    Multiplier for severance: 50%

    Eligible for severance payment of: $48,562

    I suppose Dalton is forgoing his severance package

  14. Lou Arab says:

    I see the promise that the Liberals would learn the lessons of the Kit-Wat byelection has been broken already.

    Unless the lessons were to ‘hit them harder next time.’

    Anyway, carry on. I look forward to seeing Andrea Horwath in the Premier’s Office.

  15. Marlowe Johnson says:

    god forbid you actually try and provide a substantive response Warren. Figures.

    • Nick H says:

      Those bankable sick days were agreed upon because the teachers forwent higher salaries. Nobody put a gun to the government’s head and forced them to make that agreement. Crying about it now is totally dishonest.

      If your party was actually “progressive” you would make higher taxes part of the conversation, rather than waiting for the ONDP to force your hand.

      Teachers’ salaries have barely outpaced inflation and meanwhile your government is handing out tax breaks to corporations who turn around and leave the province anyway. Then you turn around and demand that the budget be balanced on the backs of public sector workers.

      Its hilarious to hear you call yourself a “progressive” when its obvious all you care about it winning and staying in power. I don’t think policy actually means anything to you – its all just sound bites and positioning in anticipation of the next election. You don’t care what a progressive platform would actually look like, you just think it’d make for better sloganeering come election time.

  16. Timmy Horton says:

    Oh what a difference a few months makes. This time last year, teachers in the Working Families Unions were spending millions to get McGuinty re-elected.
    Fast-forward to today. Now unions are comparing McGuinty to Mike Harris. Even WK’s postings are sounding like something that would have come out of Harris’s mouth.

    McGuinty’s probably thinking “years of spending taxpayers into a $15B+ annual deficit to buy labour peace, and this is the thanks I get?”

    Prediction: Unless he manages to bribe an MP across the floor to buy a majority, McGuinty won’t even run in the next election. He’ll quickly grow tired of being either Andrea’s or Tim’s bitch come budget time. Then, rather than face the wrath of those same union attacks that helped him in the past, he’ll turn and run away, leaving the next leader to suffer the slings and arrows.

  17. Jill says:

    The shame in all of this is that a deal could’ve been possible without going through all this. Teachers offered the wage freeze. The grid freeze was profoundly unfair to junior teachers and was worth fighting over. The delay is better but I can’t for the life of me figure out how it is good for a profession to have no professional development time. An end to the bank replaced by an STD plan (sounds fun) would’ve ultimately been fine, as long as there was some, uh, protection for junior teachers currently in the system and the fact they’d signed under a specific set of conditions, and were now having their banks not just frozen, but effectively clawed back.

    In any case, the vast majority of teachers I know are now pissed about how they were thrown under the bus by Broten and McGuinty in advance of a byelection. Contracts roll over all the time come a new school year, and have always been retroactively settled — there was no rush. Combine that sentiment with the fact that teachers are deeply, and justifiably, concerned about the unprecedented concentration of powers now in Cabinet (something I’m surprised any “progressive” would support), and the Liberals are in a mess that even a talented spin doctor with an apparent axe to grind with the collectively bargained conditions of working teachers (“Fuck you. I have a job. And it isn’t one where I get to “bank” sick days”- WK) won’t be able to get them out of, and may even make worse.

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