Saturday, July 7, 2012

Is This Really Negotiating?

While I have sometimes been critical of my former union, The Ontario Secondary Teachers Federation, both in this blog and my other one, I have always been a supporter and advocate of unions. I was particularly surprised and pleased that yesterday, in contrast to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) accepting a deal with the McGuinty government which sees the elimination of the retirement gratuity amongst other deep concessions, OSSTF's Ken Coran, along with three other union heads, refused to give up the fight.

In what would be regarded in normal times as a major concession, OSSTF has already offered a two year wage freeze, and modest cost of living salary increases in years three and four in exchange for protection of the retirement gratuity, something the McGuinty government has refused to consider.

Apparently the reason the Catholic union so blithely surrendered it is that it has been eliminated in the majority of their boards over the years. However, few understand why the gratuity is much more than a perk to teachers. Yes, it is true that we enjoy a defined benefit pension, but that is the only benefit that we take into retirement; there is no dental or health plan other than what retirees purchase for themselves. For example, mine costs over $3000 per year, and offers some coverage for drugs and dental, but with significant limitations. So essentially the gratuity, usually half a year's salary paid out upon retirement, covers that cost for about 10 years.

Now I realize even that is much more than many enjoy, but the fact is that private companies, especially those with unions, do provide health and dental benefits to its retirees, a fact often overlooked by those eager to denigrate unions and teachers.

And speaking of union-bashers, Heather Mallick, in today's Star, has what I regard as a rather simple-minded column in which she essentially argues for compromise/capitulation to McGuinty's demands, lest the recalcitrant unions bring down a fury of anti-unionism on their heads a la Tim Hudak and Wisconsin-like union-busting legislation.

While that may come, especially given the level of both public ignorance and antipathy regarding the vital role unions play in a healthy economy and political system, my attitude has and always will be the same:

Go down with a fight. There is honour in losing a battle, but little in waving the white flag.

1 comment:

  1. I say never give in even when they have you on the guillotine! Never stop fighting even when you think the fight is done. As Gandhi said - they can kill me and then they will have my dead body, not my obedience. The whole future of our race is found in every little struggle for better conditions, better pay, more security, and greater justice. Jean-Paul Sartre said that in the long run we have a choice between socialism and barbarism. Never give up.