By Anthony Marco, OSSTF member
Here’s why I will be voting AGAINST the upcoming OSSTF proposal to use arbitration as a tactic to prompt more effective bargaining with Ford’s Conservatives.
I will be voting against the proposal even though I acknowledge that THIS TIME it could likely result in a better wage deal for OSSTF members. This will, of course, be the defense for the proposal: “our mandate is to bring home the best deal for our members.” At what cost?
1) I don’t believe it will get us a negotiated deal in two months considering the political benefits to the government of letting an arbitrator give away the government’s money instead of them showing weakness in bargaining.
2) This tactic is an affront to the labour movement and basically proposes a system where one union uses others’ successful job actions for their benefits without taking any of the risk.
The reality is that job action (or even the threat of it) is getting results: CUPE, UNIFOR, USW, PSAC.
The other reality is that OSSTF, like many public sector unions has allowed a generation of its membership to become disengaged to the point where most are willing to lose thousands of dollars a year versus inflation just so they don’t have to take job action. God forbid you ask this generation of teachers to do work to rule by withholding extra-curricular activities.
(Side note: when I worked in the local OSSTF office, we used to wonder how much a government would have to unilaterally cut from our salary before our members would wildcat strike. The sad reality is we thought it was probably about 10% and maybe more.)
Under this reality, the membership is not EVER ready to strike and is willing to accept any other alternative, even where it hurts a bargaining position. This proposal puts us one step away from being declared an essential service.
The balance of probabilities likely says that this tactic will result in a better deal THIS TIME for a membership who isn’t ready or willing to take job action. Any successes, however, will be on the backs of a dozen other unions across Ontario who have driven up wages through strike action and hard fought wins. In other words, the arbitrator will likely give us a better wage increase because other unions did the work for us.
If every union went down this road, the labour movement would shrivel and die.
This proposal is the logical conclusion, however, of the corporatization of unions: fiduciary responsibility. Profits override the tactics or the ethics behind them. This tactic is the tar sands of collective bargaining.
Striking is working for so many job sectors across the country right now. Putting the picket signs into cold storage may work once, but it kills our purpose as a union and group who claims to FIGHT for public education.
In just one round of bargaining, my union has gone from NO CUTS TO EDUCATION, to putting the fate of education in the hands of a single arbitrator.