By Thaddeus Baklinski
TORONTO, July 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In what has been called a “dangerous” precedent, Ontario’s Liberal government reached a key contract agreement on July 5th directly with the pro-homosexual Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) after the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (OCSTA) left the bargaining table late Wednesday night. OCSTA, which represents all Catholic school boards in the province, negotiates the contracts with its Catholic teachers, with the Ontario government acting as a go-between, but was stunned to find the province took over without any consultation.
Kathy Burtnik, vice-president of OCSTA, said negotiations broke off over concerns the deal on the table “did not represent the best interest of students.” She stated she was not aware that negotiations were under way between the government and the OECTA union after other unions representing elementary, high school and French school teachers walked away from the talks.
“At no point were we informed or was it even intimated that a potential agreement could be made between OECTA and the ministry, and we are absolutely opposed to any agreement made without our involvement,” Burtnik said, adding that cutting the school boards out of negotiation sets a dangerous precedent.
“We are dismayed at the dangerous precedent this agreement sets,” said Burtnik.
A spokesman for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) said the agreement between the McGuinty government and the Catholic teachers’ union is an undemocratic attempt to make board trustees, who are the elected representatives of parents, irrelevant.
“By cutting out local government, that is the local boards of education, McGuinty has perverted democracy,” CLC’s Jack Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. “This move represents a hostile takeover of the education system by big government, and McGuinty is making the role of elected school officials totally irrelevant. The contempt McGuinty has for democracy is astounding.”
Noting that one of the concessions OECTA made was a 2-year wage freeze, Fonseca pointed out that, “While economic conservatives may applaud finally getting a union to agree to a wage freeze, and I don’t disagree, there is a larger, more important principle at stake relating to liberty.
“This has frightening implications for parental rights and democratic freedom. After all, the trustees are the legal representatives of parents. The closer McGuinty gets to making trustees irrelevant, the closer he gets to eradicating the authority of parents within the education system. Is that his objective? There is a psychological repercussion of having teachers basically reject their employer (the school board), to sign a deal directly with the Liberal government. In essence, it makes McGuinty their employer and the school board trustees nothing but window dressing,” Fonseca stated.
Kathy Burtnik told the National Post yesterday that, “The precedent this sets as to who the employer is, as far as labour relations go, is quite confounding,” adding that, “I saw that the minister [Ontario education minister Laurel Broten] made a comment today about the importance of working with their education partners and how good that can be. Well, one of their partners does not know what has been agreed to.”
Minister Broten said, “Many people thought that this day would never come, that we would never agree, that we were too far apart. But this agreement demonstrates the value of partnership,” according to a Globe and Mail report, and stated that the deal with OECTA will act as a “road map” for bargaining with the other unions.
The Catholic teachers’ association issued a media release late Thursday with highlights of the deal, which include a two year wage freeze for all educators and principals, three unpaid professional development days in 2013-14, and reduction of paid sick days from 20 to 10, which can no longer be accumulated.
“We continued discussions, even when other unions left the table, because we believed that negotiating was the best way to secure a fair and reasonable agreement for our members - and we believe we have achieved that goal,” said Kevin O’Dwyer, OECTA president. “This agreement mitigates the impact of the government’s original parameters, protects younger teachers from having to make larger sacrifices and achieves significant gains for our members on key non-monetary issues.”
Reaction from local Catholic school boards across the province was consistent with the surprise and dismay expressed by Burtnik.
Barbara Holland, chairwoman of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, told the Windsor Star, “We were a little dismayed,” noting that school boards are teachers’ employers. “We had not been given any indication they [OECTA] could sign with the province.”
Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board director of education Greg Reeves expressed shock that the provincial government and the teachers’ association reached an agreement without the involvement of the representative of the school boards.
“That’s a very dangerous precedent this agreement sets,” he said in a Peterborough Examiner report.
A Progressive Conservative MPP, Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton), waded in saying the Liberal government’s actions infringe upon the school boards’ rights. “They feel usurped,” MacLeod said, according to the Toronto Star.
Jack Fonseca pointed out the connection between the Liberal government’s “power grab” from the boards, and “the homosexual agenda of Bill 13 which McGuinty rammed down the throats of unwilling parents.”
“More than ever before,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews, “Catholic teachers will perceive the provincial government as their boss, instead of the school board. It’s reasonable to assume that as teachers are unmoored, little by little, from subservience to trustees/parents, the more they’ll shift allegiance to the government. After all, who wants to upset the boss who signs your pay cheque.”
If OECTA’s agreement with the government is to act as a “road map” for the other unions, as Minister Broten has stated, Fonseca warned that “they had to feel they were benefitting from their pal once again.”
“As far as the optics of the ‘concessions’ made by OECTA, I don’t trust them,” Fonseca remarked.
“OECTA is 100% in favour of McGuinty’s radical gay agenda. In the 2011 election, OECTA was part of the Liberal election campaign, raising millions to elect McGuinty. There’s something we don’t know. In time, I’m sure the details will surface.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association
Kevin O’Dwyer, OECTA president
65 ST. Clair Ave. East, Suite 400, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8
Toll Free: 1.800.268.7230
Ontario Minister of Education, Laurel Broten
900 Bay Street, 14th Floor, Mowat Block
Toronto ON M7A 1L2
Email: via website
Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association
Kevin Kobus, Executive Director
P.O. Box 2064, Suite 1804, 20 Eglinton Ave. W Toronto, ON M4R 1K8
Phone: 416-932-9460 Ext. 222