Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wouldn't YOU Protest?

An old colleague of mine posted this on Facebook a minute ago and made me see red:

And the teachers are striking again, no surprise. Just be happy you all have jobs.

Grrrr. Here's the kicker: the guy who writes this belongs to a union. I kid you not.

That's the kind of statement I'd expect from an ├╝ber-capitalist robber baron. I'd still be appalled at the disdain for working people just oozing out of this putrescent mindset, but at least I'd understand where it came from. How does such a elitist mindset take root in the brain of a common, middle class person?

For those of you outside Ontario, our school teachers here have been embroiled in a bitter, bitter dispute over new legislation ("Bill 115, the 'Putting Students First Act') that the government has imposed.  There have been rotating one-day strikes across the province. Another is set for the greater Toronto area  on Friday--although the head of the teacher's union is being very careful to call it a 'day of protest' and not a strike, since teachers are not in a legal strike position (in part due to this very legislation). Political protest is still legal in Canada last I checked.

There's a common misconception that this is about money. It's not. Ontario teachers had previously agreed to a two-year wage freeze, and the 1.5% cut imposed by Bill 115 is far from top of mind for the union. But people want to talk money, because they say teaching is a cushy job that pays obscenely well. Whenever I hear this statement -- far too often -- I immediately ask the person why they're not teaching. I've yet to hear any kind of answer to the question, but I'll keep trying, and I'll report back when I get one.
There are a lot of misconceptions about teacher salaries. For one thing, they are salaries, not wages. Teachers are not paid by the hour. And that's a good thing, if you're a teacher, because I'd be out-earning the good ones in that case, and I do not have a graduate degree. Or any degree, for that matter.

If you're hoping to get into teaching for the money that's in it, be advised you'll almost certainly have to suffer through one to five years (or more) of temp work, with all the uncertainty that brings, at wages that will probably stun you. After that, you can expect a paycheque that's probably half to two thirds what you'd get working in the private sector with comparable education. But no, teachers do it for the money, right?

"Look at all those days off! They get the entire summer off, the bastards!"

Yeah, they do. Funny how when you were a student, you weren't exactly champing at the bit for school through July and August, but now that you're an adult you begrudge the teachers. Oh, and incidentally, they really do get the summers off, as in unpaid. Plus, they're expected to attend courses on their own time and dime through at least part of those summers.

You folks who wouldn't last a week in a classroom can go ahead and slander the teachers if you want. The very freedom that allows the teachers to protest shields you as well. But before you give voice to your your ignorant jealousy, you may want to look at what the government is trying to get away with here.  The following three terms and conditions are actually written, verbatim, into the legislation of Bill 115.  Per Wikipedia:

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is prohibited from inquiring into whether this act is constitutionally valid, or if it is in conflict with the Human Rights Code. 

No arbitrator or arbitration board is permitted to inquire into whether this act is constitutionally valid, or if it is in conflict with the Human Rights Code. 

No terms or conditions included in a collective agreement under this act may be be questioned or reviewed in any court.

I keep reading those three conditions, over and over again. The individual words make sense; the actual sentences they form are nonsensical and utterly terrifying. What kind of government tries to enact a law that can't be challenged on constitutional, human rights, or indeed any judicial grounds at all? Anyone have an answer? I sure didn't learn this in school, did you?

Wouldn't you be protesting too if the government--not even your employer, since teachers work for school boards--put this in legislation affecting you, or anybody you give half a shit about? Or would you just shut up and  be happy you all have jobs?

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