June 20, 2019

BY CHRIS HUSSEY

When unions first rose up to defend workers’ rights in the second half of the 19th century, they had a significant and meaningful role in Canadian society. They fought for the rights of workers and ensured the prosperity of the middle class for decades to come.

But today, unions seem to cause more trouble than they’re worth. The most recent example of this is the ongoing teacher’s union dispute in Ontario.

October has been consumed by talks between the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO). The teachers are eager to increase wages and working conditions, and the association is focused on a settlement similar to the one currently in place with the Catholic and high schools.

On Oct. 14, OPSBA published a news release informing the public that the association and the ETFO had been able to resolve the majority of the issues that were disputed.The release was concise and informative. It gave the public a brief update on the progress of the bargaining process with the ETFO, and nowhere in the release were there any accusations toward the union.

And yet, on the same day, the teachers released their own statement criticizing it as a “media stunt,” and that it was, “another example of bad faith bargaining.”

In an article in the Waterloo Region Record, Michael Barrett, president of the school boards’ association, said the move was intended to, “inform the public on the progress made in negotiations and to clear up any misinformation after six weeks of silence surrounding the talks.” In the Hamilton Spectator, Premier Kathleen Wynne chimed in and said she was frustrated at how long it was taking to come to a resolution.

“Parents don’t know why there isn’t a resolution to this, and out of the frustration that the boards were feeling, they wanted to put information into the public realm that demonstrated that there has been movement,” she said.

Wynne is absolutely right. Since when did transparency and openness become a contentious issue? Parents have every right to know what the status is on these negotiations because this is and will affect them the most. It is not bad faith to do so, and the EFTO knows this. If anyone is pulling a media stunt, it’s the union.

The EFTO has said it is willing to return to the bargaining table, but as of press time, talks have not yet resumed. It is paramount that they do so sooner rather than later, because the success of the students they claim to be interested in helping depends on them doing so.

Unions may still have a role to play in Canadian society, but this sort of behaviour and response should not be part of that.

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