Every so often I find myself in a conversation with someone who wonders if unions are still needed in Canada today.
Today we have laws to protect workers, they’ll say. There’s no more child labour; we get paid extra for overtime; employers can’t discriminate based on race, sex or anything else; employees are required to get breaks; etc. Why bother paying dues to a union?
A report last week from a panel that examined Ontario’s labour laws shows exactly why.
Some quick thoughts today from a guest: Doug Nesbitt. Doug is a PhD student in labour history at Queen’s University in Kingston and an editor of RankandFile.ca, a site dedicated to “Canadian labour news and analysis from a critical perspective.”
Teachers in Ontario found reason to celebrate recently.
In 2012, the Ontario Liberal government passed the “Putting Students First Act,” a bill which imposed contracts on teachers and effectively took away their right to strike.
This April, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that this act (also known as Bill 115), had violated teachers’ constitutional rights. Teachers, like other workers, are guaranteed the right to negotiate the terms of their work collectively and to have these negotiations be meaningful. Bill 115 had made this impossible.
Teachers and many other public-sector workers across the country welcomed the ruling, seeing it as a precedent which protects against current or future governments trying the same kind of legislative trick.
The campaign centres on raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour and securing basic benefits like paid sick days for all workers.
The teachers (Kate Curtis, Jason Kunin and Seth Bernstein) drew connections between the challenges they see some kids facing in their classrooms and the precarious, low-wage work available to those kids’ family members. Continue reading Teachers and the fight for 15→
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union will elect a new president later this spring. Six candidates are attempting to replace Shelley Morse, who is completing her second two-year term in office. (NSTU rules state that no president can serve for more than four years.)
One of the best parts of being a teacher is when students let you know they appreciate the work you do.
It happens more than you might think. Despite the common, timeless sentiment that kids-today-ain’t-got-no-respect, students do express their appreciation in lots of ways: a thank-you in passing, a question that shows interest in what they’re learning, a compliment delivered via a parent at parent-teacher, the occasional goodie or card at holiday time.
Any teacher will tell you that appreciation coming from the kids is a great motivator. But it’d be nice if we also got it from the government that employs us.
Along with other public employees, teachers in Nova Scotia recently had our wages frozen for two years, and retirement benefits rolled back, through legislation by the provincial Liberal government.
Poverty. Racism. Democracy. Aboriginal rights. Climate change. Many of us explore issues like these in our classrooms. It’s our responsibility as teachers to see that our students become caring, engaged members of society.
In our unions, we also advocate for progressive change on issues like these. One of the my own union’s core beliefs is that promoting quality public education for all requires working for social justice.
The provincial budget was tabled in Nova Scotia earlier this month, with education funding being increased by $18.6 million.
I don’t have time to crunch the numbers here to analyze what they really mean. (e.g. to what extent do they compensate for cuts to the P-12 education budget in recent years? And what year would we use as a benchmark, anyway? 2010? 2001?)
For the moment, teachers seem pleased by the budget announcement (despite the fact that Liberal government had promised $65 million in additional funding for education in the first year of its mandate, not over four years as the budget announcement now says).