A headline caught my eye the other day. "Teachers ratify deal." This is about the strike that had Ron Howe ready to clean the crap and the strikers out of Straffordville School with a wide mop.
On reading through the article I was astounded at the complexity of the voting process, but not that a small percentage of teachers voted against the deal. There is always a lunatic fringe. Roy Stewart has an anecdote to illustrate the attitude. An Irishman came ashore at Halifax.
"Has this country got a government?"
Somebody said, "Yes."
"I'm agin it!" says the Irishman.
There is one part of the deal I am agin. Over the years since 2008 governments have paid teachers' unions almost $4 million to help pay for negotiating costs. If teachers want to gamble on getting a raise by striking, why should everyone of us pitch in to help, whether we agree with the deal or not? Taxpayers lose money to help unionists get rich. The unions have been given $2.5 million for this latest deal.
Something else is troubling. The government has insisted the deals which involve four big teachers' unions were "net zero." Savings have to be found elsewhere to achieve this. Just what and where isn't talked about publicly.
There is a strike by the university professors' union in North Bay. University students have their own union in North Bay. Some of the students take the stand that they must back the professors because they are both unions and unions should stick together. I throw my support to the students who say let's look at what the demands are before we make up our minds.
One demand is that professors in relatively small North Bay be paid equally with professors at University of Toronto. You can fill an encyclopedia with reasons why this is worse than ridiculous. Cost of housing in the two cities is nothing near the same. Cost of getting to work in Toronto is crippling. You can walk or ride your bike to work in North Bay.
The emotional health of living in traffic jams and all the pressures of living in Toronto, try making friends of professors in Toronto. Fat chance. You never recognize a single face in such a sea of strangers. In North Bay you can get to know families, have dinner, a barbecue, play games.
There was a time when teachers had no right to strike in Ontario. The late Ron McNeil was MPP for Elgin at the time. The late Lee Locker and I went to visit him in his home to talk over the situation. We suggested that teachers be given the right to strike. Neither of us believed teachers would exercise the right because of the trouble it would create for children. We said if teachers abused the right, it could be revoked.
We could not have been more naive!
There were school boards all across the province. Strikes would be between local boards and one or more of several groups representing elementary and secondary schools, protestant or catholic teachers. We were known as federations, union was a word never to be uttered out loud. We haughtily held ourselves above the common worker. We were professionals.
It was no accident that the first teachers' strike was called in Windsor, home of unionized auto workers. Strategists were counting on the unions-must-support-unions attitude that we see in the Student Union in North Bay today.
Soon we frankly spoke of teachers' unions and the movement began its Hydra-like time and money gobbling disorganized mess we can hardly fathom in 2015.