CPC(M-L) HOME ontario@cpcml.ca

April 24, 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 33

Members of Secondary Teachers' Federation Endorse Modifications

Minister of Education's Contemptuous Response

Members of Secondary Teachers' Federation Endorse Modifications
Minister of Education's Contemptuous Response

Governments Must Defend Public Right, Not Monopoly Right!

Hands Off School Board Retirees! A Deal Is a Deal! - Enver Villamizar
Government Orders School Boards to Cut Benefits for Retirees Over 65
Active and Retired Workers in Windsor-Essex Respond to Government Attack
Excerpts from Education Act Concerning Retirement Benefits

Coming Events
April 28 Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

Members of Secondary Teachers' Federation Endorse Modifications

Minister of Education's Contemptuous Response

On April 18 it was announced that members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF)  voted 84 per cent in favour of modifications the government permitted during talks with the union. The modifications were to terms imposed by the government using the arbitrary powers conferred by Bill 115. Voting took place from April 12-18 online or by phone. Members were asked if they were in favour of the modified provincial framework agreement or not.

Following the vote, OSSTF President Ken Coran remarked, "Our members have exercised their democratic rights within our Federation to vote on the changes to the working conditions that were imposed on us by the Ontario government in January and they have voted to endorse those changes.

"This agreement respects the fiscal parameters defined by the Ontario government but also respects creative solutions to problematic issues identified by our members. In addition, the government has committed to working collaboratively to ensure a fair, transparent and democratic process is in place for the next round of collective bargaining."

For her part, Minister of Education Liz Sandals sought to claim this result as an endorsement of her government's phony austerity agenda that removes funding from social programs to pay the moneylenders. Ontario Political Forum rejects the Minister's contemptuous response.

Sandals shamelessly tried to paint the government's removal of billions of dollars from education as something not only socially responsible, but even beneficial for education: "The idea of living within the existing funding envelope for education was by no means an impediment to the agreement. Instead, it was a catalyst for innovative thinking, collaborative problem-solving and the renewal of our proud partnership with Ontario's public high school teachers, support staff and school boards," she said.

According to this la-la land rendering of reality, the government's dictated parameters to remove $2.19 billion from education, and then modified dictate with the same parameters, is not contemptuous of rights but rather a "catalyst" for "innovation," "problem solving" and "renewal." By this logic, bullying is also a "catalyst" for "self-esteem," "resilience" and "self-confidence." Who does the Minister think she is fooling? Does she believe that after a year of almost daily resistance by teachers and education workers to threats, blackmail, slander and bullying that they are chumps who should now thank the government and the Minister for being the "catalyst" for "innovation," "problem solving" and "renewal?"

She went on to portray the modified terms to the imposed terms as a form of "common ground" agreed to by the union and its membership, again trying to hide the violation of rights: "I want to thank everyone who participated in reaching this agreement and all those who voted in favour of it. All parties showed a willingness to seek common ground in support of our common goal -- higher levels of student achievement. The result is an agreement that is fair for taxpayers, federation members and school boards, but the real winners are Ontario's students," she said.

Removing billions from education and claiming now that this will somehow result in higher levels of student achievement is rich indeed.

She also deliberately tried to hide the contempt which teachers and education workers have for the government and its attempts to cover up the violations of rights, stating: "Our government and OSSTF have come a long way toward rebuilding our relationship in a collaborative approach which reaffirms our commitment to delivering excellence in our secondary schools for Ontario's students." Of course working collaboratively does not extend to affirming the right of teachers and education workers to collective bargaining free from dictate. The government has a narrow definition of collaboration and fairness.

Pouring salt in these wounds, the Minister tried to paint a rosy picture by claiming that the government's "collaboration" has "seen our teachers, support staff and students return to enjoying extracurricular activities." This statement comes right on the heels of a Labour Board ruling which declared that the coordinated withdrawal of extracurricular activities by elementary teachers in two boards after non-agreements were imposed by government dictate, was an illegal strike.

Ontario Political Forum calls on teachers and education workers to continue building public opinion to oppose government disinformation aimed at undermining their rights and presenting dictate as legitimate, and now even as positive.

Return to top

Governments Must Defend Public Right, Not Monopoly Right!

Hands Off School Board Retirees! A Deal Is a Deal!

When it comes to contracts, the government follows one rule for the monopolies it does business with and another for dealing with the working class. If contracts are cancelled with the monopolies -- for example the decision to relocate gas plants to save Liberal seats in the last general election -- the government makes it a principle that the public purse should be used to pay them for the inconvenience of not being able to make their big scores. The only debate is how much they should be paid. In other words, even if they break contracts with the monopolies, the monopolies still get paid one way or another, based on their privileged position. But when it comes to the working class, contracts are broken or imposed with impunity. Workers and retirees are thrown under the bus and told that their contracts are an unsustainable liability and just to let bygones be bygones.

A recent egregious example of this is the order by the provincial government to cut off the health and dental benefits of roughly 570 retirees who worked for the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board and their spouses. These retirement benefits were part of contracts covering the retirees who paid their dues throughout their working lives and retired based on the understanding that they would have health and dental benefits for the remainder of their lives. These workers operated on the basis that contracts agreed to with the two school boards dating as far back as the 1960s would be honoured, and planned their lives accordingly.

Now the government claims that by throwing retirees under the bus they are actually upholding the Education Act! This is a fraud. The Liberals are throwing retirees under the bus because they see them as a "cost" that must be eliminated.

According to the Liberals' notion of fairness and balance it is acceptable to throw retirees and their families' lives into chaos and uncertainty in order to remove millions from education so that it can be handed over to the moneylenders and other private monopolies. Clearly the government's repeal of Bill 115 and selection of a new Premier as a "reset" was meant to try and divert attention from the new attacks which are now being rolled out on the most vulnerable.

Everyone should stand with the affected retirees and their families and demand that governments defend public right. Governments cannot be permitted to renege on their responsibility to the older generation, whether it be on pensions, benefits or any other matter. Being able to retire with dignity is a right!

Return to top

Government Orders School Boards to Cut
Benefits for Retirees Over 65

The government has decided to interpret a little known provision in the Education Act to justify eliminating any form of school board-paid benefits for retirees over 65 by August 2014. The provision in the Act deals with employee benefits and states that a board "may retain the person [retiree] in a group established for the purpose of a [health insurance] contract referred to in clause (1) (a) until the person reaches 65 years of age."

The ambiguity of the Act, which does not expressly prohibit the provision of post-retirement benefits after 65 years of age, is being used by the Minister of Education to invoke her prerogative powers to specifically target a group of retirees in two boards in the province who had negotiated retirement benefits past 65 years, as a step towards attacking all teachers' and education workers' benefits. This is made clear when one considers that in addition to retirees, any current employees in line for post-retirement benefits because of negotiated provisions in their collective agreements, or terms and conditions of their individual employment contracts in the case of non-union employees, will only receive those benefits -- which in no case will extend beyond age 65 -- if they retire before September 1, 2013. As of that date, school boards will not be permitted to contribute to post-retirement benefits for any new retirees.

This ruling reflects a provision contained in the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association that was eventually imposed on all other teachers and education workers and the entire education sector. It is also said to be the reason for an unusually high number of directors and superintendents of education (12 of the province's 72 directors so far) announcing they will be retiring as of August 31, 2013 -- which some say will deprive local school districts of experienced leadership. This is taking place at a time when the government is putting in place arrangements of all kinds to centralize control over education in its own hands, undermining the authority of school boards.

The unilateral "phasing out" of existing post-retirement benefits will free up $290 million next year and $43 million a year after that. This money that is being taken away from retirees and future retirees will no doubt end up in the pockets of the moneylenders that hold Ontario's debt and deficit.

Return to top

Active and Retired Workers in Windsor-Essex
Respond to Government Attack

On April 15 both the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor Essex Catholic District Board issued statements announcing they had been specifically ordered by the Ministry of Education to stop paying benefits by August 2014 to a group of retirees over 65 years of age, despite their being guaranteed these benefits in certain collective agreements and employee contracts.

Reportedly these two boards are the only ones across the province to have such an arrangement. August 2014 happens to be when collective non-agreements imposed on teachers and education workers across the province expire, signaling that government dictate will again be the name of the game in the next round of negotiations.

The public board said 312 of its retirees, mainly former unionized maintenance employees, custodians and skilled tradespeople, along with some non-union central office staff and senior administrators older than 65, would be affected. The Catholic board said 258 of its retirees, many of them also former custodial and maintenance employees, stand to lose health and dental benefits they and their spouses are receiving.

Workers, their family members and supporters are responding to the government order on the basis of defending the dignity of retirees. CAW Local 2438 president Bruce Dickie, who represents many of the affected Catholic board retirees, said his members were "livid." He called the province's latest imposition "outrageous," saying, "Forty-five years we've been bargaining those benefits. They can't tell us they're illegal, because the Education Ministry, every single minister of education, has approved [the school boards'] budgets with those benefits in there." Some of the retirees losing their benefits included Second World War veterans and widows, people in their 80s and 90s getting $300 or $400 a month from their pensions, he said.

On April 20 CUPE Local 27 held an information meeting for their affected retirees. At the meeting, one retired maintenance worker conveyed the vicious nature of the attack to the local media and the story has been gaining attention. He explained that under their collective agreement, custodians and maintenance workers who retired before age 65 were required to pay the full cost of their benefits (the board's share as well as their own share of the premiums) until their 65th birthday to be eligible to receive  board-paid retirement benefits from that point on. Since retiring four years ago after putting in over 40 years with the public board as a member of CUPE Local 27 he has paid over $20,000 from his own pocket to maintain his health and dental benefits in order to receive the board-paid retirement benefits he was promised upon turning 65.

On April 22 at the Annual General Meeting of the Greater Essex Unit of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, a presentation was made from the floor about the retirees' situation. A resolution was then forwarded from the AGM to the local executive to express the full support of the elementary teachers for the retirees and oppose the removal of their benefits.

The two Windsor area boards alone will reportedly be able to free up $70 million "to help the Catholic Board out of its deficit problems and help prevent the public board from ending up in a deficit" as Education Minister Liz Sandals put it, and "allow them to focus on providing programs for students."

This insidious attempt to pit workers -- active and retired -- against "the students" appeared many times in media reports on the story. The fact the retirees in question were mainly support staff whose unions were able to negotiate those benefits years ago to afford them some security in retirement in exchange for lower wage increases at the time was overshadowed by sensational stories about "ill-gotten benefits" that came at the expense of taxpayers and school children. Catholic Board Director Paul Picard is quoted as saying, "It was going to cost almost $200 a student per year for the next 10 years. By comparison, the retirement benefit costs for other boards that only provide benefits for retirees up to age 65 amount to $13 or $14 per student."

The fact that the two Windsor-area boards were providing certain employee groups post-retirement benefits until death was reportedly brought to the attention of the government after a financial audit was conducted by the government-imposed supervisor of the Catholic Board charged with trying to find ways to cut the Board's spending to reduce its deficit.

(With files from Windsor Star, London Free Press)

Return to top

Excerpts from Education Act Concerning
Retirement Benefits

Insurance for employees

177. (1) Subject to the Health Insurance Act, a board by resolution may provide,

(a) by contract either with an insurer licensed under the Insurance Act or with an association registered under the Prepaid Hospital and Medical Services Act,

(i) group life insurance for its employees or any class thereof and their spouses and children,

(ii) group accident insurance or group sickness insurance for its employees or any class thereof and their spouses and children, and

(iii) hospital, medical, surgical, nursing or dental services, or payment therefor, for employees or any class thereof and their spouses and children; and

(b) for payment by the board of the whole or part of the cost of any insurance or services provided under this subsection. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, s. 177 (1); 1999, c. 6, s. 20 (4); 2005, c. 5, s. 21 (7).

Contributions re insured services

(2) A board may by resolution provide for paying the whole or part of the cost to employees of insured services under the Health Insurance Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, s. 177 (2).

Coverage for retired persons

(3) If a person retires from employment with a board before he or she reaches 65 years of age, the board may retain the person in a group established for the purpose of a contract referred to in clause (1) (a) until the person reaches 65 years of age. 1994, c. 27, s. 108 (7).

Payment of premium

(4) If a person is retained in a group under subsection (3), the premium required to be paid to maintain the person's participation in the contract may be paid, in whole or in part, by the person or by the board. 1994, c. 27, s. 108 (7).

Return to top

Coming Events

April 28 Day of Mourning for Workers
Killed or Injured on the Job

Return to top


Read Ontario Political Forum
Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  ontario@cpcml.ca