After attending the recent Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) Member Town Hall, here is why I’m voting no to the voluntary binding arbitration process proposed by OSSTF.
We do not know what is on the table
The number one reason by far is we do not know what is on the table. We, and those before us, fought hard against imposed contracts. Workers deserve to vote on their daily working conditions. At a minimum, I had hoped to hear our relative positions on the table to vote on something roughly in the middle. We know nothing about what is on the table. We are essentially voting to impose a contract on ourselves.
Bill 124 remedy is not enough
Bill 124, the Conservatives public sector wage repression legislation, was declared null and void in the courts last November. The Bill 124 remedy in this deal seems low and misplaced. It feels like a bribe (and a low one at that). Teachers like other public sector workers deserve more after being limited, unconstitutionally, for three hard years of work.
Limiting of local bargaining
This limits local bargaining and even some provincial bargaining. How much will a bargaining table move if they know there is no threat? Just stall and things will get settled on their own.
Lecce wants binding arbitration
Lecce loves this. I don’t buy that this government is hiding anything. It’s a populist government and Lecce has a background in public relations. They will flaunt what they perceive as wins in order to get public opinion back, especially in the midst of the worsening Greenbelt scandal . This deal allows the government off the hook at a time when they are most vulnerable.
Not good in the long-term
This will bite us in the long term. It sets a precedent. No, we are not voting for permanent binding arbitration, and every bargaining round really is unique, but let’s put ourselves in our opponents shoes. If I was Lecce, or any Minister of Education, and I knew the union at the table had members who wanted binding arbitration, that would be my number one strategy. What is stopping Lecce and future Ministers of Education from saying, “Let’s just do binding arbitration again and avoid strikes.” It will easily divide us and garner public support for binding arbitration.
Union solidarity is key
Ontario Education Workers United, which I am part of, was founded on inter-union solidarity. Other education unions very clearly, and almost immediately, voiced their distaste for binding arbitration. Public education is under attack. My children have 14+ years left in the system. Public education unions need to be working together to defend public education and there is no better time than during bargaining. We shouldn’t be breaking ranks in the fight for better working and learning conditions.
OSSTF/FEESO members are currently engaged in a province-wide online vote between September 8 and 27, to decide on accepting the voluntary binding arbitration pathway pursued by OSSTF/FEESO
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