Toronto Substitute Teachers Action Caucus
Do you want more work?Do you want more respect in the school and in the classroom?
Do you want a democratic union that works for you, rather than one that caters to management, and that ignores or excludes concerned members?
The Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus invites you to a meeting. We want to take action on your concerns, your beefs, your pet peeves. What changes would you like to see in working conditions at the TDSB, concerning our rights on the job, and opportunities for advancement? Do you want better access to daily jobs and LTO positions? Do you want something done about the growing incidence of threats and bullying against substitute teachers, about unfair 'on-call' assignments, about the lack of classroom keys, about mouldy or over-heated classrooms, and other working conditions?
Our April 9 meeting will focus on plans for the OTBU Annual General Meeting set for Wednesday, May 21, 4:30 p.m. at the Latvian Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive.
So please join us on
Wednesday, April 9
4:30 to 6 p.m.
at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-199, St. George Subway Station
Refreshments will be served.
Please invite your co-workers.
Let us know what issues you would like to discuss, and that you plan to attend this important meeting.
For more information, call the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus Help Line at 416 - 588-9090. Visit our web site at:
Make Jobs the Top Priority
The top issue for most substitute teachers in Toronto is employment.
It's all about work, about income, about making a decent living --
enough to raise a family, or just to survive oneself.
Since the drastic cut in contract teachers' paid sick leave, substitute teaching has become increasingly precarious for those who rely on it.
Unfortunately, the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit Executive does not, and never has put a priority on fair work distribution. Otherwise, it would have fought hard, relentlessly, to cap and reduce the secondary OT dispatch list.
Nothing has changed – as can be seen in the Negotiation Priorities Survey just sent to Toronto OTBU members.
“Improve Access to Employment” is buried in a long list of possible bargaining priorities. It is Number 13 in a list of 20.
Item Number 13 reads in full: “Improve Access to Employment: Access to day-to-day supply through capped OT Roster and rotation through OT Roster”.
No doubt, many of the other issues in the list are important. But without adequate work, how is a good income with benefits, and decent classroom conditions attainable?
So if you want the reluctant Toronto OTBU Executive to make Employment a top priority, it is necessary to assign as many points as possible to Number 13 on the Survey.
I strongly recommend that you award more than half of your 100 points to that issue. To make a really strong submission, it would be good to give 80 or more points to “Improve Access to Employment”.
Are you happy with the amount of work you get? Fine. But think of your co-workers, your colleagues who are struggling to survive on less than two days' work per week, in a situation where over 2,000 names are on the OT list and the TDSB typically assigns fewer than 400 OTs a day.
The only way to fix that glaring discrepancy is to freeze the OT secondary dispatch list, and reduce it by attrition to 1000 names. That is what the Toronto OTBU and OSSTF should be fighting to accomplish.
How can you help make that happen? By giving most of your survey points to Number 13 on the priorities list.
The deadline for completing the Survey is January 31.
If you did not get the Survey, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 416 – 423-3600
Here is a link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?m=P2Zb8wLVZxeJEUKonAAAfg_3d_3d
Also, keep in mind that the deadline for paying the $150 fee to the Ontario College of Teachers, to maintain your good standing as a teacher in Ontario, is April 15, 2014.
To achieve positive change, to win Jobs with Dignity, join the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus. For more information call: 416 – 588-9090
Police, Lies and Audio tape - OTBU Executive Descends to a New Low
a report by Barry Weisleder
To attend the Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit General Meeting on November 27, 2013 members had to pass through a cordon of armed Toronto police. The cops were hired by Linda Bartram, Vince Zambrano and the OTBU Executive to arrest this writer on sight.
Never have I received any communication from the owners or managers of the Latvian Centre warning me against 'trespassing' there. Yet that is the charge the hired cops issued to me, after they held me in handcuffs for several minutes. Naturally, I am contesting the $65 ticket, suing the police for illegal arrest, and submitting a formal complaint to OSSTF Judicial Council against Linda and Vince for exceeding their authority and violating my civil liberties.
Inside the General Meeting it quickly became clear why the Executive members felt they had to take such extreme measures. They scrambled to bolster their flagging fortunes. The meeting chair helped them by allowing no questions to the Executive about the ten year ban. This outraged many members, including those who lined up at the sole microphone on the meeting floor (usually there are two or three mics).
Soon, the meeting adopted an Action Caucus resolution asking the Executive to organize a demonstration at school board headquarters, prior to April 30, 2013, to highlight the issue of student misbehaviour and bullying of substitute teachers. A year earlier the meeting passed a similar directive, but the Executive chose to speak to the Board about 'classroom keys' instead - thus defying the will of the membership.
Finally, an Action Caucus candidate for delegate to AMPA 2014 came within two votes of winning one of the eight positions elected. Our Peter Wilson tallied 32 votes. The top establishment candidate got 67. This count also shows that the overall turnout for the meeting was the poorest in two years. Perhaps it was the cold, wet weather. Perhaps it was the chilling effect of the Executive's pernicious practice of audio recording the proceedings – and using the recording to lay charges against dissidents.
But what a close call for the bully executives! It appears that their days of catering to Management and ignoring members' concerns about jobs, working conditions and union democracy are coming to an end.
On November 27, no solution to the jobs crisis was adopted. Most proposals for constructive reform went down. Then time was up. The meeting adjourned.
Clearly, the regressive, repressive, do-little executive has got to go.
The May 2014 OTBU election cannot come soon enough.
What would you do if your union…
… banned the union’s original organizer from attending membership meetings for ten years - just for persistently asking a question about job security?
… hired police to arrest and handcuff the organizer for talking to co-workers in a building foyer, without warning, even though he was not inside the rented room where the bargaining unit meeting was held?
… allowed your local Executive to operate in secret, to appoint (behind closed doors) all representatives, to treat Executive members to paid union leave, trips abroad, and catered meals, and to keep Executive minutes under wraps for over eleven years, and to use the local newsletter as an exclusive, self-promotional, propaganda vehicle?
… called police to remove a member from a professional training course to which all members were invited?
… permitted the local Executive to audio record general meetings and use the audio recordings to prosecute dissident members for ‘speaking out of turn’?
… worst of all, gave away collective agreement job security provisions and refused to take action to restore fair access to work, especially at a time when members are starved for regular employment?
This is precisely the situation in the Toronto Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
Labour unionists live by the code: An injury to one is an injury to all.
Speak up now for union democracy – while you still can.
Support the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus. Get in touch.
For more information, call the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus Help Line at 416 - 588-9090.
Visit our web site at: torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
The following is an open letter sent by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to OSSTF President Paul Elliott to protest the severe and unprecedented penalty imposed by Judicial Council on a member for insisting on job-related information that the Toronto OTBU executive refused to disclose for over a decade.
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) to express our concerns about a penalty imposed by the Judicial Council of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) in a recent case involving OSSTF member Barry Weisleder. We understand from Mr. Weisleder that, as a result of a hearing held by the Judicial Council in which he was found to have breached OSSTF bylaws, he has been banned from holding office within or attending meetings of the OSSTF for a period of 10 years. We have serious concerns that this type of penalty infringes on the freedoms of expression and association of your members. We ask you in your role as President to review whether these types of sanctions are ever appropriate in a democratic labour organization, and to ensure that, if they are to be imposed, there be clear guidelines governing their use that recognizes that they represent a severe infringement on the rights and freedoms of the sanctioned member.
The CCLA is a non-profit public interest advocacy organization that has existed since 1964 to promote and defend the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians, including freedom of expression and freedom of association. As you know, freedom of association is a foundational principle at the heart of the labour movement, without which workers would be unable to join together in the struggle for better wages and fairer workplaces. Just last year, the CCLA was proud to stand with the OSSTF in opposition to Bill 115, which in our view was an undemocratic and unconstitutional infringement on your members’ collective bargaining rights. The full text of our submission to the Ontario Legislature is available on our website at http://ccla.org/2012/09/06/cclas-submissions-re-ontario-bill-115/ . In our submission we noted that “evidence of major disturbances or ruinous disruptions” was necessary to justify measures that infringe on constitutional rights. We also argued that the right to collective bargaining goes beyond its economic impact to ensure a fair wage for workers, and that it “enhances the dignity of workers” and is about “participating in the governance of the workplace.”
These same core principles extend beyond the external relations between unions and employers and into the internal governance of unions themselves. Freedom of expression and association require that members be given a voice to communicate their views about how their union is run, and be allowed to actively participate in the governance of their union. Protecting these freedoms is easy when this expression is in harmony with other members and union leadership. It is more difficult when they are in tension with the views of other members or leaders, but these are the cases when the freedoms are most vital.
The CCLA does not seek to involve itself in the internal decision-making and governance structures of labour unions, but in our role as a national advocacy organization we feel a responsibility to seek to ensure that those structures and processes conform to constitutionally entrenched freedoms. We are pleased to note that the OSSTF Constitution recognizes this as well, as expressed in Article 3.1.1 that the “first and foremost” objective of the OSSTF shall be to “protect its members” and “ensure that none of the civil, human and legal rights enjoyed by other Ontario residents shall be denied its members.”
We understand that the governing documents of the OSSTF provide for a Judicial Council to adjudicate alleged violations of the union’s bylaws or rules of order. We also understand that Bylaw 6.8 empowers the Judicial Council to impose penalties on members, including deciding “that the Member be declared ineligible to hold any OSSTF office for a specified period of time” (Bylaw 18.104.22.168), or “that the Member be declared ineligible, for a specified period of time, to participate in any OSSTF meetings except for those called for the purpose of taking strike votes or for ratifying a collective agreement” (Bylaw 22.214.171.124). In our view, these two sanctions on their face represent clear and serious infringements of the expression and association rights of OSSTF members. If there are ever circumstances in which they would be justified, those circumstances would be exceptional and require clear evidence of severe, repeat and unjustifiable derogation of a union member’s duties or obligations. Moreover, even in circumstances where imposing one or both of these sanctions would be appropriate, the duration of the sanction must be similarly restrained.
We understand from Mr. Weisleder that the Judicial Council proceedings in this case stemmed from allegations of inappropriate behavior at a membership meeting of the Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit. We have no doubt that there are factual disputes about exactly what transpired at that meeting, and as alluded to above, the CCLA does not seek to involve itself in the facts of specific cases or in individual dispute resolution. However, we have serious concerns about the ten-year ban imposed on Mr. Weisleder and about such severe and lengthy sanctions being imposed in any case.
We urge you in your role as President to consider whether the circumstances of this case warrant the imposition of sanctions that, by their very nature, seriously infringe on the expression and association rights of OSSTF members, and do so for an exceptionally long duration. We also ask that you consider what role, if any, these types of sanctions should play in the governance of a democratic union that respects the rights of all members, even those it disagrees with, and that you put in place guidelines governing the use of these types of sanctions to ensure that the fundamental freedoms of OSSTF members are protected and respected in the union’s internal disciplinary process.
Director, Fundamental Freedoms Program
Petition to the OSSTF Executive
Rescind the 10 Year Ban
Staggering repression and shameful cowardice -- that's how OSSTF officials deal with dissent.
In early October 2013, teachers' union bureaucrats denied a Request for Leave to Appeal the unprecedented decision of their hand-picked 'Judicial Council' to ban the founder of Ontario substitute teacher unionism from attending OSSTF meetings, or running for office, for ten years!
Their aim, through a relentless campaign of harassment and persecution that began in 2002, was to exclude Barry Weisleder from leadership, even from participation in the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit.
Why? Because Weisleder effectively exposed and opposed OSSTF pro-management policies and practices that stripped substitute teachers of the job security, benefits and decent working conditions that they won in a landmark strike he led at the Toronto Board of Education in 1990.
What is the excuse for the ten year ban? Weisleder spoke out of turn at an OTBU meeting in November 2012. He persisted in demanding that the OTBU Executive reveal how many substitute teachers are on the TDSB dispatch list.
After ten years of stonewalling, the executive, consisting mostly of pro-Management, double-dipping retirees, finally spilled the beans: over 2040 names on the secondary schools dispatch list (in May 2013), while there are, on average, less than 500 daily occasional teacher jobs.
The bulging list, and the dearth of daily assignments, means grinding poverty for hundreds of qualified professionals, members of the District 12 OTBU.
But this seems not to be the concern of the OTBU executive, or of provincial OSSTF officials. Their priority, evidently, is keeping substitute teachers down, keeping conservative retirees in control, and keeping the rank and file Action Caucus at bay. The Action Caucus registered a string of policy victories at OTBU meetings over the past two years. And Weisleder was poised to win the local Presidency at the May 2014 election.
Rather than conduct a fair election and foster open democratic discussion, OSSTF bureaucrats and their local henchmen engage in crude political exclusionism and exhibit a cowardly fear of accountability and open debate. Under their dictatthere is No Appeal, No Justice, and No Job Security.
But ordinary members have shown they will not put up with such an outrage.
"Jobs with Dignity" is our demand. Democratic dialog is our means.
Without a doubt, we will win. With your help, it will be sooner, rather than later.
Join the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus today. Call 416 – 588-9090 . Visit: torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
Fact Sheet on the Threat to Democratic Rights in OSSTF
Judicial Council found Barry Weisleder guilty of speaking out of turn at an OTBU General Membership meeting held November 21, 2012. Barry sought answers to questions about job security – concrete facts about work distribution and the size of the OT dispatch list that leaders of the OTBU refused to disclose for over a decade.
He did finally get an answer about the list, but only after repeatedly posing the question, and insisting on greater accountability and transparency from local officials concerning their relations with management. This exchange occurred in the context of a three month period in which most substitute teachers at the Toronto District School Board suffered a catastrophic loss of work and income.
For his persistence, which technically exceeded the time limit for questions, Barry faced an official Complaint submitted to the JC in December 2012 by the Toronto OTBU President, Linda Bartram, and First V.P./Chief Negotiator Vincent Zambrano. That led to a JC Hearing in June 2013. The JC found Barry guilty and banned him from holding office or attending OSSTF meetings for ten years!
Such a penalty is unprecedented. Under the circumstances, it is equivalent to a life-time ban. Other more reasonable and just measures, like a written reprimand, would have sufficed. The decision to ban a member for questioning his local executive, even if he broke a protocol, should not be taken lightly.
Keep in mind that criticism and questioning are vital to the progress of a democratic union. Allowing this decision to stand would set a worrisome precedent for present and future members of OSSTF.
Hence, we urge you to sign a petition to ask that this ruling be rescinded.
Why should you join with substitute teachers, contract teachers, education support workers in OSSTF, plus members of ETFO, OPSEU, CUPE, CAW, UFCW, CUPW, SEIU, NDP, social justice movements, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and others in this effort?
Because an injury to one is an injury to all.
Do you have questions? Constructive suggestions? Just e-mail: email@example.com or phone: 416-588-9090 .
Have a look at the Petition to the OSSTF Executive. Please endorse it individually and/or collectively through your organization.
You can download, print out and sign the petition here.
For more background on the history of OSSTF leadership treatment of substitute teachers, visit the web site: www.torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
Presentation to the Launch of the Campaign to Rescind the 10 Year Ban - July 25, 2013
* In 2002-2003 OSSTF provincial officials seized control of the Toronto OTBU. They did this to break a militant, democratic local union. It was also a warning to other substitute teacher bargaining units in OSSTF. Be seen, but not heard. Pay dues, and accept whatever school board management gives you.
* OSSTF brass put a group of affluent, conservative, retired teachers in charge of the OTBU, and promptly surrendered the job security provisions, the benefits and working conditions of the best substitute teacher collective agreement in Canada.
* For 10 years the installed local executive, which kept a tight grip on the OTBU by undemocratic means, refused to disclose information about the TDSB's dispatch system. The secondary school dispatch list rocketed from 1200 names to 2000+ names overnight. Hundreds of members suffered economic hardship. This situation worsened significantly in the Fall of 2012 after the Ontario Liberal government slashed the contract teachers' paid sick days from 20 to 10, eventually settling on 11 days.
* The OTBU executive, led by Linda Bartram and Vince Zambrano, refused to be accountable for their failure to restore the Cap on the dispatch list. They blamed members, at least in part, for being jobless. They blamed members for not taking half-day asignments, even at the risk of being unavailable for calls for a full-day job. The truth is that OT jobs dropped from about 800 a day to about 200 a day. Many members lost thousands of dollars, each, in the Fall of 2012.
* Members attended the November 21 OTBU general meeting in a state of high anxiety. The rank and file Action Caucus prepared a number of questions and resolutions to address the crisis. After an hour and a half of mind-numbing speeches from the front table, it was question time. I asked a question about the loss of jobs and income. The President just ignored it. Then I asked “how many names are on the dispatch list?” The V.P./Chief Negotiator sputtered and stonewalled. After I posed the question two more times, he finally answered with some figures. Then Vince told us all to “shut up”. We answered that rude remark with a chant: “We want work! We want work!”
* Did the chair recognize me, in the first place, to ask a question? Yes. Did I exceed the 60 second time limit for asking a question? Yes. Did I ask a second question out of turn? Yes. Did I lead a chant for “jobs”? Yes. Did the chairperson call for order? Yes. Did the chairperson, in accordance with her duty under Robert's Rules of Order, name me for being disorderly? No. Why not? She later said it was 'optional' to do so. She chose not to 'name' me. Did the chair threaten to adjourn the meeting? Yes. What happened then? The meeting quickly came to order and resumed doing its business. How long was the break? At most, eight minutes. How long was the entire meeting? 150 minutes. What happened in the last 50 minutes? The meeting adopted three motions submitted by the Action Caucus. What happened at the AGM, 6 months later? It was orderly, by all accounts. No one complained about anyone's conduct. The AGM adopted an Action Caucus motion to ensure that questions from the floor would be entertained. It nearly adopted another Action Caucus motion to limit the use of audio recordings of our meetings.
* But following the November 21 meeting, Linda and Vince, on behalf of the OTBU executive, lodged a Complaint against me at the OSSTF Judicial Council. They claimed that I continuously shouted at the November meeting, that I deliberately disrupted the meeting. They complained that my supporters and I distributed information to members at the meeting, a democratic right that members have exercised for decades in our unit.
* Their Complaint led to a J.C. Hearing in June. Members are not allowed to have legal representation at JC. OSSTF assigned an untrained, retired staff person to be my 'advocate'. I did most of the preparatory work. The J.C. allowed the unauthorized audio recording into evidence. The J.C. rejected all the preliminary motions we filed, including one to stop the prejudicial citation of past JC decisions. The JC Hearing administrator was abusive and rude towards my witnesses. Vince said to Igor T., one of my witnesses, that “We have to get rid of Barry.”
* Now, keep in mind that, at the November meeting, the chair failed to name me, or anyone, for being disorderly. Officially, that means nothing occurred at the meeting that merited disciplinary action. The lack of anyone being 'named', that is, the absence of a warning of potential disciplinary action, combined with the subsequent charges, mean that the conduct of the chairperson amounted to an act of entrapment. That very serious error committed by the chair, intentional or otherwise, should have negated the charges then and there.
* The JC ignored the violation of procedure. It made its ruling: “Guilty”. Then came the unprecedented penalty: I am barred from holding any office and from attending OSSTF meetings for 10 years. Under the circumstances, that is a ban for life. It follows being barred from holding office in OSSTF for 7 of the past 11 years. That was done on petty and vexatious grounds. So the latest escalation of repression, while extreme, follows a very disturbing pattern. The deepening repression in OSSTF is not unlike what is happening in other unions. It parallels the collaboration of union leaders with management and with the business political establishment. It presents a challenge to all workers who want to fight the current austerity drive, which is boosting profits while undermining public services and living standards for the majority.
* What should the J.C. have done? It should have dismissed the Complaint. It should have said something about the vexatious and petty nature of the Complaint. It should have called the OTBU executive to account for its secretive and obstructive behavior, for its demonstrated lack of concern for members' livelihood and rights. But for those who take the view that my speaking out of turn at one meeting, after ten years of patience in the face of executive stonewalling, deserves to be punished, then would not a reprimand and a warning be sufficient? In light of the orderly May AGM, what more than a warning was needed?
* Well, plenty more is needed – if the goal is not to correct behaviour, but to crush the organized opposition in the OTBU. But why try to do that now?
* The fact is that the Action Caucus has been increasingly successful at OTBU meetings over the past two years. We won a number of policy debates. We won a requirement that a complete copy of any tentative agreement be made available for members to see - at least a week prior to any ratification vote. We won a motion asking the executive to make a deputation to the TDSB specifically on the issue of increasing student misbehaviour, disrespect and violence towards substitute teachers. We won a motion to have the executive take “recommendations to the TDSB for better school administrator support for OTs”, and to do this no later than April 30, 2013. On the all-important jobs issue, an Action Caucus resolution to seek reduction of the OT dispatch list, by attrition, to 1000 names, and to be capped at that number” fell just 10 votes shy of a majority. And our motion 'to ask OSSTF to establish an OT Provincial Standing Committee to press for a provincial bargaining strategy to advance the interests of OTs' failed by a narrow margin. Our candidates for office typically receive 30% of the votes, and one AC candidate, Peterr Wilson, came within 11 votes of knocking off a member of the executive-backed slate.
* How much do the local executive and provincial officials worry that, if allowed to run for OTBU President, I would win the election next May 2014? I cannot say. But it seems clear that Linda and Vince would rather not chance it.
* Some may say: Barry, if you knew they were out to get you, why didn't you act more mildly. My answer is this: I did not organize the union, lead a successful strike, negotiate the best collective agreement for substitute teachers, and defeat an OSSTF raid led by Liz Barkley in 1986, by being mild mannered. I faced the tactics of OSSTF officials, which have been aggressive, ruthless and relentless. I did not lead the resistence to the purge of our elected officers and the destruction of our past gains, and build up the Action Caucus to the point that it scored a number of small victories, and is poised to win the leadership again, by being meek and mild.
* I have been active in the labour movement since the early 1970s. I belonged to CUPE Local 79, an IAM Lodge in Winnipeg, CAW Local 1967, OPSEU (winning three terms on its provincial Executive Board), and OSSTF (as Toronto OTBU President and Provincial Council member). I have been involved at every level of the NDP for over 45 years. So I can tell you this. I have seen the policies and practices of many workers' organizations. But none are as undemocratic, manipulative and repressive as those in OSSTF. Now that might not be so remarkable if the present trend was not still proceeding from bad to worse. In fact, that regressive trend, which coincides with labour acquiessence to the capitalist austerity agenda, is deepening across the board. I think that this battle against austerity is the fight of our lives. We have no choice but to fight this ruling class agenda. And that means upholding democratic rights in our unions. Without democratic, militant unions, workers will have a much tougher time ahead. I pledge to continue the struggle, come what may. I ask for your support in this case, not for my sake, but for yours and for everyone. An injury to one is an injury to all. Together we will win, whatever it takes.
"We want work!”
Most members are starved for work. We know the dispatch list is far too large (nearly 2,000 subs chase fewer and fewer jobs each day). To be sure, Bill 115 has cost us dearly. But the unemployment crisis the members are now suffering preceded the nasty law that cut contract teachers' sick leave days in half. The truth is, things have been getting bad for years. Now they are much worse. Indeed, a number of substitute teachers told the OTBU meeting that their work and income has declined 80 to 90 per cent in the first three months of the current school year.
When Queen's Park cut the number of teachers' paid sick days the OTBU executive should have moved swiftly into action. It should have demanded that the dispatch list be reduced (by attrition) and that it be Capped. Instead, they twiddled their thumbs, echoed Management propaganda about “job vacancies”, and blamed Premier Dalton McGuinty. We know that McGuinty is a stooge for the business elite. So, what would you call our OTBU leaders?
On Nov. 21 the Executive made extraordinary efforts to waste time. Mind-numbing, redundant speeches echoed from the head table. But they could not stop members voicing their concerns. Nor could they prevent the meeting from adopting motions submitted by the Action Caucus.
For three years the Action Caucus demanded that the union deal with the growing incidence of student disrespect and violence. In November 2010 an OTBU General Meeting adopted just such a motion. Still, the executive did nothing – other than put the onus on members to fill out a ridiculous complaint form about “bullying”.
But at the latest meeting the OTBU voted to “request the Executive to report on their progress” on taking this issue to TDSB officials, and to report to members “at the next GM and in each edition of the OTBU Newsletter.” The meeting adopted two more Action Caucus motions. They ask the Executive “to provide recommendations to the TDSB for better school administrator support for OTs”, and “to make every effort to take a deputation to the appropriate TDSB Standing Committee no later than April 30, 2013 on these matters, with an invitation to Toronto OTBU members to attend that deputation.”
On the all-important jobs issue, an Action Caucus resolution fell just ten votes shy of a majority. It proposed “That the D12 OTBU make reduction by attrition of the ... Dispatch list to 1000 names (to be capped at that number) the top priority for the next round of negotiations”.
Earlier in the meeting, our motion to ask OSSTF to establish an Occasional Teachers' Provincial Standing Committee”, which would press for a provincial bargaining strategy to advance the interests of OTs across Ontario, was ruled 'out of order' by the meeting Chair. A motion to overturn the ruling of the Chair failed by a narrow margin.
In the election of eight OTBU delegates to the OSSTF convention in March, the establishment slate of old phonies won again. But the Action Caucus team received about 30% of the votes cast. One exception was AC candidate Peter Wilson. He came within just 11 votes of knocking off a member of the executive-backed slate.
So, what's next? As CUPE, OSSTF and the other teachers' federations continue the just struggle against the Ontario government to restore free collective bargaining and the right to strike, we should insist that our Federation do something to address the concerns of substitute teachers, especially about chronic under-employment and our deteriorating working conditions.
And we must hold the OTBU Executive accountable to the will of the November 21 meeting. Take our issues, with a mass membership deputation, to the TDSB before April 30 – or resign! The Executive shrugged, but members loudly chanted: “We want Jobs with Dignity now.”
For more information, please contact the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus
call: 416-588-9090 or visit: www.torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
In September 2012 the 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers' Union successfully waged a nine-day strike that stopped an all-out Management attack against their union and against the interests of students and their communities. The key to their success was long term organizing to make the CTU more democratic and capable of mobilizing mass membership and community involvement.
On October 11 the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit sponsored a public meeting at which Deborah Pope, a CTU leader, gave an informative and inspiring report on the success of her union. Although only about 40 people attended the poorly advertised Toronto meeting (and only six of those attending were OTBU members), they were exposed to the salient lessons of the Chicago teachers' victory.
Unfortunately, those lessons are completely lost on the Toronto OTBU Executive.
The CTU, for many years, was dominated by a conservative, undemocratic elite of teacher bureaucrats. But a few years ago a union reform group formed. Eventually, the CORE Caucus defeated the right wing establishment caucus in a CTU election. Then the reformers began to implement their programme for change.
What did CORE do? They organized frequent and accessible meetings for members. They delivered full disclosure of union business, full disclosure of collective bargaining priorities, and accountability for commitments. They kept promises they made, and made every effort to involve rank and file members in the preparation and conduct of the strike. The CTU convened "Contract Action Committees" to prepare and wage the campaign that won broad working class support and achieved many of their goals to protect public education from further spending cuts, deteriorating working conditions, and Management's divide and rule tactics.
While they pose as admirers of CTU methods and tactics, the Toronto OTBU Executive does exactly the opposite in nearly every way imaginable. They hold only two general membership meetings a year. The meetings are difficult to reach by public transit, and provide little time for membership questions and discussion. The Executive conducts most of its 'business' in closed-door meetings. They refuse to allow members to see the minutes of Executive meetings. They appoint all members of OTBU standing committees, and do it all in secret. They refuse to reveal the results of membership collective bargaining surveys, including the latest one that was conducted in September 2011 - over 13 months ago! The Executive and its appointed bargaining team refuse to disclose the current bargaining priorities. They refuse to take any effective action on the issues that now matter most to members - the sharp decline in daily substitute teaching jobs, and the sharp rise in student bad behaviour, disrespect and violence towards substitute teachers in the classroom. Systematically, they break promises - like the promise they made to include in the latest survey the need for a Cap on the O.T. dispatch list (where there are currently 2000 OTs vying for less than 600 jobs a day); like the promise of the Executive to make a public deputation to the Toronto District School Board on the issue of widespread mistreatment of members in the classroom.
What do you call showing such a flagrant disregard for the lessons of Chicago, while trying to bask in the reflected glow of the CTU strike success? Hypocrisy.
What should be done about it? Expose and kick out the pro-Management gang that runs the Toronto OTBU. Demand that OSSTF, at the Toronto District and provincial level do something to advance the interests of substitute teachers for jobs and justice.
For more information, please contact the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus https://torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com/ 416 - 588-9090
Fewer than thirty members of the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit gathered at the OSSTF District 12 building at Bathurst and St. Clair on September 27.
They responded to the following invitation from the OTBU Executive: “...following the strike vote, join your fellow OTBU members for an important special information meeting and social. The results of the strike vote will be announced and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the impact of Bill 115 with members of the OTBU and Provincial OSSTF Executive. Updates on our plans to oppose this new law which removes our right to free collective bargaining will also be announced.”
Unfortunately, the Executive refused to disclose the actual strike vote results in any detail, refused to answer questions about current OTBU bargaining priorities, and failed to indicate any new plans to oppose Bill 115.
The farcical, non-information meeting started thirty minutes late and was adjourned in less than an hour. The OTBU President and the Chief Negotiator were absent for most of it, ducking out, they claimed, to participate in a telephone conference call – the contents of which they refused later to disclose. Instead of meaningful dialog and membership empowerment -- there was a desolate post-meeting 'social' fueled by sandwiches, wine and beer.
Now, here are the details of the meeting proper. At the opening, OTBU President Linda Bartram reported that 93.1% of the OTBU members who voted on September 24-25 approved a strike mandate for OSSTF. But when asked, repeatedly, she refused to say how many voted. At one point V.P. Vince Zambrano said “five voted”. How close to the truth was this 'joke' is hard to know.
After a review of the evils of Bill 115 by an OSSTF staff person, members were invited to ask questions and make comments.
But the following key questions the head table party refused to answer:
What is OSSTF doing specifically to advance the interests of substitute teachers, especially concerning job security, in the present situation?
What are the current bargaining priorities of the Toronto OTBU now?
Did the OTBU Executive make a public deputation to the Toronto District School Board concerning deteriorating working conditions, especially the escalation of student rudeness and violence in the classrooms? The Executive promised at the Annual General Membership in May 2012 to make such a deputation. Investigation and action on this issue was actually mandated by a resolution, submitted by the Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus, and adopted at the November 24, 2010 OTBU General Membership Meeting.
Concerning the first two questions, Executive members argued that bargaining strategy should not be revealed to the employer. But here the matter is bargaining priorities, not the tactics to attain them, and it is the membership that is being kept in the dark. The executive refuses to disclose even the results of the membership bargaining issues survey conducted in September 2011! This misconduct weakens the membership in the face of a management emboldened by Bill 115, while many members suffer the effects of a growing jobs crisis.
Concerning working conditions, under intense questioning one hapless executive member admitted that no deputation to the TDSB occurred... because the executive was too busy. So much for democracy, accountability and service to beleaguered members.
Following the meeting several teachers signed up to receive information from the Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus, which will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, October 30, 4:30 p.m. in Room 2-281 at OISE U of T, 252 Bloor St. W., just east of St. George St. Please join us there for real information sharing and real action planning. Call us at 416 – 588-9090.
If you visit the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit web site, you can see who was elected to each position on the Executive - but not the actual number of votes cast.
Why was that information, always posted immediately after elections in past years, omitted this time? Why is it not to be found in the June OTBU newsletter? Could it be that the OTBU ruling clique finds the results embarrassing?
So they should. As reported here earlier, the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus, campaigning for 'Jobs and Justice', made solid gains in the June 2012 Toronto OTBU Executive election. This 'mail in' vote was another in the series of bogus OTBU elections held since 2003. Voter participation was down. But votes for the democratic opposition candidates were up.
Out of a membership of about 1900 on the union list, only 475 cast ballots. That is nearly one hundred less than the votes recorded in the 2008 OTBU election, and a few less than voted in 2010. Once again, many members did not receive a voting package containing the rules, return envelopes and a ballot.
Despite all the unfairness of the election process, the votes for Action Caucus candidates surpassed our previous results. If more members had voted, we could have won, and begun to make the OTBU work again for all of its members.
Action Caucus candidates received between 23.1% of the votes cast for President (for our candidate Peter Wilson), to 40.1% of the votes cast for Treasurer (for our candidate Bruce Miles). Our vote share for most of the contested offices increased. Here are the detailed vote results:
Linda Bartram 365
Peter Wilson 110
Janine Carter 128
Vincent Zambrano 341
Ann Burke 349
Gurcharan Singh 119
Shakeel Ahad 273
Bruce Miles 183
Linda Enright 324
Nancy Line 135
Paul Bocking 290
Coleridge Brown 268
Stefanie Hall 162
Jagtar Mann 95
Jennifer Mills 337
Lillian Speedie 250
Ihor Turjansky 116
Peter Wilson 189
The voter participation rate was 25% if there were 1,900 eligible voters. (It would be a lower percentage if there were actually more O.T.s on the list -- but that information not disclosed by the executive). In any case, only 475 members submitted a mailed ballot.
Against all the odds and obstacles, in terms of local union policy and practice, the Action Caucus achieved positive gains over the past four years. We won a guarantee that all tentative collective agreement language will be made available to members at least one week prior to a ratification vote. We blocked an attempt to dissolve the OTBU into the secondary contract teachers' bargaining unit. We defeated a motion to give friends of the executive honoraria of up to $500 each. We put a dent into executive secrecy and wastefulness.
In addition, at the May 2012 AGM, the executive conceded that they plan to make a deputation to the TDSB on the issue of unsafe classroom conditions, and that this will include addressing the issue of student behaviour. This move is a direct response to Action Caucus agitation and lobbying.
While the ranks of the establishment are thinning and disintegrating, the progressive opposition continues to unite and grow.
Now it is your turn to get involved. Help us to build a positive alternative for all Toronto substitute teachers, to win job security, decent benefits, paid P.D. and dignity at work. Act together to make sure that in the current provincial teacher collective bargaining process, that substitute teachers' concerns are seriously addressed and met. Join the Action Caucus by responding to this e-mail message, and/or by phoning: 416 - 588-9090.
Join us at the 141st Annual Toronto Labour Day Parade on Monday, September 3, 2012.
Meet at 9:30 a.m., at the south-east corner of Queen St. W. and University Avenue. Look for the banner "Workers' Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition".
We will be walking with the NDP, which will be the lead contingent in the parade - so please be on time, and enjoy free admission to the CNE.
An analysis by Barry Weisleder, Past-President (1983-2002), Toronto Substitute Teachers
Despite an ongoing, serious democratic deficit in the union, the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus, campaigning for 'Jobs and Justice', made solid gains in the June 2012 Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit (OTBU) Executive election. This was another in the series of bogus OTBU elections since 2003. While voter participation was down, votes for the democratic opposition candidates were up.
Out of a membership of about 2000 on the union list, only 475 cast ballots. That is nearly one hundred less than the votes recorded in the 2008 OTBU election, and a few less than voted in 2010.
Once again, many members did not receive a voting package containing the rules, return envelopes and a ballot.
The ten members of the Toronto OTBU Elections Committee were all appointed by the Executive incumbents. They are retired teachers drawn from amongst the incumbents' supporters. They controlled the election process from start to finish.
Before the 2003 'coup' by which the conservative, pro-management faction undemocratically seized control of the OTBU, the OTBU routinely held five or six membership meetings per school year. It held elections, not only to fill Executive offices, but for virtually every position in the unit (Bargaining Committee, Health and Safety reps, Labour Council reps, Newsletter Committee, etc.). Now the Executive appoints all committee positions. There are only two general membership meetings per year. Minutes of Executive meetings are kept secret.
The OTBU used to convene meetings and conduct elections in-person. These were held at a rapid transit-friendly site, in a central OSSTF or TDSB school building (free of charge, with plenty of parking spaces available). Members showed I.D. at the door, received their ballots for voting at the reception table, met and could question the candidates, and got the election results for each OTBU executive position instantly -- without the OTBU spending thousands of dollars on stamps and paper.
The opposition Action Caucus team of candidates asked in April 2012 for a list including phone numbers of OTBU members in order to make direct contact for campaign purposes. Although this request was granted in 2008, and in preceding OTBU elections, the Elections Committee refused to provide such a list in 2010 and again this time in 2012,.
Naturally, the incumbents are in contact with members throughout their two-year term. They control the OTBU Newsletter. They generate a great amount of misleading, self-promoting propaganda. The May 2012 edition of 'The Call Out' is an extreme example of abusive self-promotion by the incumbent President and 1st V.P./Chief Negotiator. The newsletter committee excludes all written submissions by members with whom they disagree. The executive has year-round access to membership data stored in the OTBU office, situated in a Don Mills luxury apartment building. Ordinary members are not permitted to visit the OTBU office at will.
Once again, this writer was barred from running in the OTBU election on the basis of spurious, vexatious and absurd grounds. Why? I made a public deputation to a public TDSB committee in September 2008, when no collective bargaining was taking place. Nonetheless, I was accused of 'interfering with bargaining' and barred from seeking office until the next collective agreement is in place, which could be in 2013, or later.
Although not a candidate, I was verbally attacked in speeches by leading candidates of the establishment faction at the AGM on May 23, held at the Latvian Centre in Don Mills. So, do you think this election occurred on a level playing field, one that is equal for all candidates for Toronto OTBU office?
Despite all the unfairness of the election process, the votes for Action Caucus candidates surpassed our previous results. If more members had voted, we could have won, and made the OTBU work again for all of its members.
Action Caucus candidates received between 23.1% of the votes cast for President (for our candidate Peter Wilson), to 40.1% of the votes cast for Treasurer (for our candidate Bruce Miles). Our vote share for most of the contested offices increased.
The voter participation rate was 25% if we assume (conservatively) 1900 eligible voters. (It would be a lower percentage if there are actually more O.T.s on the list - information not disclosed by the executive). In any case, only 475 members submitted a mailed ballot.
Against all the odds and obstacles, the Action Caucus achieved positive gains over the past four years. We won a guarantee that all tentative collective agreement language will be made available to members at least a week prior to a ratification vote. We helped to block an attempt to dissolve the OTBU into the secondary contract teachers' bargaining unit. We stopped a motion to give friends of the executive honoraria of up to $500 each. We put a dent into executive secrecy and wastefulness.
In addition, at the May 2012 AGM, the executive conceded that they plan to make a deputation to the TDSB on the issue of unsafe classroom conditions, and that this will include addressing the issue of student behaviour. This is a direct response to Action Caucus agitation and lobbying.
While the ranks of the establishment are thinning and disintegrating, the progressive opposition continues to unite and grow.
Now it is your turn to get involved. Help us to build a positive alternative for all Toronto substitute teachers, to win job security, decent benefits, paid P.D. and dignity at work. Join the Action Caucus by responding to this e-mail message, and/or by phoning: 416 - 588-9090.
No Work? Tough!
That seems to be the attitude of the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit Executive.
Substitute teaching opportunities are in decline. November 2011 was the worst November for Toronto OTBU members in many years. While the SmartFind Express dispatch system broke down more than once, and the mild Autumn weather reduced teacher absences a bit, the main cause of rising unemployment is neither of these. The fact is, there are simply too many names on the dispatch list. And very inequitable job assignment practices conspire to make matters worse.
During a rambling report to the November 23 General Meeting, OTBU President Linda Bartram stopped to ask: “How many of you have received, since the beginning of September, as much work as you want?”
To the evident dismay of our feckless leader, fewer than 10 per cent of the approximately 140 members present stood up. Over 90 per cent were clearly dissatisfied.
The president then launched into a sermon, the gist of which was that substitute teachers ought to accept more half-day jobs, which according to management are sometimes not filled. But Bartram ignored the elephant in the room, namely, that there are less than 700 jobs available per school day to the two thousand substitute teaches on the dispatch list.
During the question period, members asked the president and the chief negotiator why the job security Cap was omitted from the Collective Bargaining Survey as an issue, and why is it that the Executive seems to be doing nothing about worsening student indiscipline.
Answers from the front table included these gems: “Few members are concerned about job security.” “No promise was made (precisely three years ago) to include the Cap in the questionnaire.” “Very few members have submitted written complaints about student behaviour” (which, by the way, increasingly involves foul language, persistent intruders, inappropriate use of electronic devices, flagrant lateness, disrespect, theft of teacher property, physical attacks and/or threats of physical assault).
Instead of providing good service to members, the OTBU Executive delivers misinformation, indifference and arrogance. Its newsletter is a pro-management puff piece. Calls to the OTBU office often go unanswered, or poor advice is given. Is it any wonder that OTBU members seeking some sympathy and a measure of wisdom, call the Action Caucus Help Line at 416 – 588-9090?
The November 23 meeting saw Executive officers waste time with repetitive 'reports', evasive answers, and by screening (as they did last May) a self-promoting video. In the end, there was insufficient time to debate and vote on important policy issues, such as the jobs and indiscipline crises.
However, one resolution from the Action Caucus, urging OSSTF to create a unique sector council of OTBU leaders from across Ontario that would address distinct substitute teacher concerns, was debated. It received considerable support, failing by a relatively narrow margin, 42 – 64.
A motion by former executive member Bill Pryde to “direct the Negotiating Team to persue vigorously the incorporation into the next Collective Agreement of the use of Bargaining Unit seniority, after willingness to work in a location and qualifications for the job, as the determinant for assignment to Occasional Teaching work.” This initiative, which would see work offers go first to long serving, non-pensioner, daily occasionals, attracted over 30 per cent support at the meeting.
In the election of the OTBU's nine delegates to AMPA 2012, the establishment slate won. But Action Caucus candidate Peter Wilson came within 16 votes of capturing a spot as a delegate to the March 2012 OSSTF convention.
All this goes to show that,
while it is often
darkest just before dawn, if a couple dozen more progressive members
actually attend the Annual General Meeting next May, it will be
possible to sweep away the pro-management clique and turn the OTBU into
a real union for all of its members once again.
call the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus Help Line at 416 - 588-9090.
Members protesting mistreatment in Toronto secondary schools faced stern Executive stonewalling tactics at the May 26, 2011 Annual General Membership Meeting.
Rank and file voices at the microphones called attention to a growing crisis. They reported escalating student rudeness, widespread use of i-Pods and cell phones during classes, chronic lateness, nasty threats, physical violence, theft of personal property, and the lack of support by school administrators and OTBU officials in the face of such daily abuses.
The Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit meeting, with only 120 of 1900+ members present at the Don Mills site, saw Chief Negotiator Vince Zambrano and President Linda Bartram blame ordinary members for submitting “less than a dozen” complaints about student misbehaviour. The OTBU Executive chose to ignore the clear direction of the November 24, 2010 General Meeting. That GM approved a Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus-sponsored resolution mandating the Executive to investigate the student behaviour crisis by soliciting membership in-put, and then make a deputation, with recommendations, to TDSB officials. The adopted motion did not stipulate a minimum number of complaints required to prompt action. But it did ask union officials to solicit members' in-put on this subject. Instead, the Executive posted on its web site an “Anti-Bullying and Anti-Harassment Reporting Form” which does not clearly and directly address the issues of concern to members. Naturally, most members ignored it.
The May 26 AGM accomplished less than usual. Following a late start, then the approval of the agenda and past meeting minutes, we were 'treated' to the screening of a self-congratulatory video produced by the Executive. After reports from, and questions put to the President, to the Treasurer, to a provincial OSSTF officer and to the local Chief Negotiator (even though negotiations do not begin until Summer 2012), there was hardly any time left to consider resolutions submitted by ordinary members.
Questions to the President and Treasurer about the lack of paid P.D., about insufficient daily teaching assignments, about inflated union expenditures, and concerning the amount of union money given directly to Executive members, were 'answered' evasively, or worse. Once again, OTBU 'leaders' blamed members for what management claims is “a large number of unfilled jobs.” When pressed, officials admitted that many of these jobs are half-day assignments. If a substitute teacher accepts a half-day job the night before, or early on the teaching day, s/he is deprived of an opportunity to accept a full-day job (and pay).
Sadly, no debate occurred on Action Caucus motions to seek a 1200 name cap on the dispatch list, to increase the frequency of OTBU meetings, and to make the location more rapid transit-accessible. Luckily, the GM defeated a 'gravy train' motion seeking to pay $10 to each member who attends an OSSTF District 12 meeting. Time ran out before reforms proposed to make the OTBU constitution democratic could be entertained. Then it was time to scamper off to the buffet dinner and open bar, with the Executive eagerly leading the way.
Stay tuned for the Collective Bargaining Survey in the Fall of 2011. Although the Executive will keep the results secret, it is the only opportunity to indicate your bargaining issue priorities.
Members protesting mistreatment in Toronto secondary schools pierced the bureaucratic indifference of the Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit Executive at the November 24, 2010 General Membership Meeting.
Rank and file voices at the microphones called attention to an escalating crisis. It consists of rising student rudeness, flagrant disregard for rules against i-Pod and cell phone use, chronic lateness, nasty threats, physical violence, theft of personal property, and the lack of support by school administrators and OTBU officials in the face of such daily outrages.
The OTBU meeting, with less than 95 of 1800 members present at the usual transit-remote location in Don Mills, approved a Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus resolution. It asks the OTBU Executive to investigate the student behaviour crisis by soliciting membership in-put. It directs the Executive to make a deputation, with recommendations, to TDSB officials.
Unfortunately, a vital part of the resolution calling for an emergency OTBU General Meeting in March 2011, where members could voice their concerns in person and make recommendations for change, was deleted by amendment. Another problem is the lack of any time line for action. Still, in the words of the old adage, half a loaf is better than none.
This was also the case in the election of delegates to AMPA 2011 (the OSSTF annual convention, held during the March Break). The Action Caucus team of candidates received between 18 and 42 per cent of the votes cast; indeed two were elected the first and second alternate delegates. With a mere seven or eight more votes, at least two Action Caucus candidates would have been elected delegates outright.
Other Action Caucus motions to increase the frequency of OTBU meetings, and to make the location more rapid transit-friendly, were defeated. An establishment-backed motion to extend OTBU membership for substitutes who work only one or two days a year (which reflects the thinning base of the feckless executive) did pass. Time ran out before consideration of a motion to study the feasibility of dissolving the OTBU into the Toronto secondary schools permanent contract teachers' bargaining unit.
Questions to the President and Treasurer about the lack of paid P.D. and the amount of union money given directly to individual Executive members, were either ignored, or answered evasively. New activists in attendance took note, spoke out forcefully, and appreciated the progress accomplished by persistent effort -- such as last April's successful Action Caucus motion requiring the executive to make available to members the full tentative collective agreement language at least a week prior to any ratification vote, if possible.
As the influence of the opposition grows, we shall see whether the OTBU Executive carries out the clear mandate to tackle the current behaviour crisis, or instead opts to reap the whirlwind.
Photos from the meeting are up at this location.
Please attend and vote for the Action
candidates for Delegates to AMPA 2011:
which will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Latvian Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, just south of Eglinton, two lights east of the Don Valley Pkwy. The resolutions are presented by the Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus. Contact us at 416 - 588-9090. Visit our web site at: torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com.
Be It Resolved That this meeting
request the Executive to undertake
an investigation of the problem of student uncooperativeness,
rudeness and violence towards Occasional Teachers, the enquiry to be
conducted by soliciting in-put from the Membership at a General
Membership Meeting to be convened in March 2011, and by requesting
submissions in writing, with all recommendations for improvement of
student behavior to be presented by an OTBU delegation to the
appropriate TDSB Standing Committee, as well as in writing to the
Chair and Director of the TDSB, as soon as possible following the
General Membership Meeting convened for this purpose.
2. More frequent OTBU General
4. Eliminate “Preferred” Lists at TDSB Secondary Schools
Rationale: Cronyism, favoritism, even nepotism are a significant factor in the distribution of occasional teaching assignments in the TDSB’s secondary panel. The job of the union is to do its best to ensure that its members can make a decent living, and to reduce instances of school administrators providing occasional teaching assignments on the basis of old school ties or other factors that have little to do with equity, fairness, economic need and subject qualification.
meetings could be held at a TDSB or
OSSTF facilities -- for little or no cost, as was done prior to 2003.
Obtainable space at 1482 Bathurst Street (the OSSTF D12 building) and
at TDSB schools situated close to a centrally located TTC subway
station can easily accommodate an attendance of 200 or more. The
banquet halls and restaurants currently used by the OTBU cost over
$1000 for rental of meeting space, parking, and refreshments. Equally
important is the fact that 60 Mobile Drive and adjacent venues,
situated in Don Mills, are difficult to reach via public transit –
taking over an hour and a half from any great distance. But a meeting
space near a central subway station can be reached by public transit
in about half that time. This is a particularly important
consideration for members who have after-school family care and
teaching duties. To save money and to make OTBU meetings more
accessible to members who do not have cars, please vote for this
The May 2010 Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit (OTBU) Executive election was a farce -- another in a long line of bogus OTBU elections since 2003. As the results show, more and more substitute teachers recognize it for what it is.
Out of a membership of over 1860 on the union list, only 477 cast ballots. That is nearly one hundred less than the votes recorded in the 2008 OTBU election.
Once again, dozens of members did not receive a voting package containing the rules, return envelopes and a ballot. Eleven votes were not counted due to errors in the needlessly complicated voting/mailing procedure. Almost all of the envelopes mailed back to the OTBU address had the stamp cancellation post-mark "M4L", which means that they all went through the same Canada Post sortation plant. This is extremely odd considering that OTBU members reside all across the GTA and beyond.
The ten members of the Toronto OTBU Elections Committee, all appointed by the Executive incumbents, are retired teachers drawn from amongst the incumbents' supporters. No wonder the establishment faction candidates did not bother to appoint any scrutineers to observe the vote count on May 27. They controlled the election process from start to finish.
Before the 2003 'coup' by which the conservative, pro-management faction undemocratically seized control of the OTBU, the unit routinely held five or six membership meetings per school year. It held elections, not only to fill Executive offices, but for virtually every position in the unit (Bargaining Committee, Health and Safety reps, Labour Council reps, Newsletter Committee, etc.). Now the Executive appoints all committee positions. There are only two general membership meetings per year. And Executive minutes are kept secret.
The OTBU used to convene meetings and conduct elections in-person at a rapid transit-friendly site, in a central OSSTF or TDSB school building (free of charge, with plenty of parking spaces available). Members showed I.D. at the door, received their ballots for voting at the reception table, met and questioned all the candidates, and got the election results for each OTBU executive position instantly -- without the OTBU spending thousands of dollars on stamps and paper.
The opposition Action Caucus team of candidates asked in April for a list including phone numbers of OTBU members in order to make direct contact for campaign purposes. Although this request was granted in 2008, and in preceding OTBU elections, this time the Elections Committee refused to provide such a list.
Naturally, the incumbents are in contact with members throughout their two-year term. They control the OTBU Newsletter. They generate a great amount of misleading, self-promoting propaganda. They exclude all written submissions by opposition members. They have year-round access to membership data stored in the OTBU office, situated in a Don Mills luxury apartment building. Ordinary members are not permitted to visit the OTBU office.
Once again, this writer was barred from running in the OTBU election on the basis of spurious, vexatious and absurd grounds. I made a public deputation to a public TDSB committee in September 2008, when no collective bargaining was taking place. Nonetheless, I was accused of 'interfering with bargaining' and barred from seeking office until the next collective agreement is in place, which could be 2013, or later.
Although not a candidate, I was verbally attacked in speeches by two leading candidates of the establishment faction at the AGM on April 28, held at the Latvian Centre in Don Mills. One of them also slandered our candidate for President, Peter Wilson.
Do you think this election occurred on a level playing field, one that is equal for all candidates for Toronto OTBU office?
For several of these reasons, an Action Caucus candidates filed a complaint with OSSTF head office about the Toronto OTBU election. We are not holding our breathe in anticipation of justice, but we are determined to continue the struggle for a democratic union by every available means.
Despite all the odds and obstacles stacked against the Action Caucus, we achieved positive gains over the past two years. We won a guarantee that all tentative collective agreement language will be made available to members at least a week prior to a ratification vote. We helped to block an attempt to dissolve the OTBU into the secondary contract teachers' bargaining unit, and stopped a motion to give friends of the executive honoraria of up to $500 each. We put a dent into executive secrecy and wastefulness.
And in the latest farcical election, our candidates attracted a solid vote, about 25 per cent, which represents in increase in support for our cause. Here are the actual vote results for each of the contests:
President Linda Bartram 350 Peter Wilson 127
First V.P. Qaisar Alam 94 Vince Zambrano 377
Second V.P. Ann Burke 289 Chris Sojka 100 Rudy Winter 75
Treasurer Shakeel Ahad 234 Janine Carter 139 Rudy Winter* 91
Secretary Linda Enright 361 Ihor Turjansky 115
Executive Officers (4 to be elected) Paul Bocking 211 Coleridge Brown 273 David Hopkins 345 Ahmed Mezouri 81 Jennifer Mills 361 Bill Pryde 151 Gurcharan Singh 75 Peter Wilson* 149 Kathryn Winton 133
* denotes drop-down candidate
Thus, 'independent' Bill Pryde was knocked off the Executive, 'independent' Rudy Winter fell farther behind, and the young, inexperienced, co-opted Paul Bocking slides in on the greasy coat tails of the establishment.
If you compare these results to those of 2008 you will notice that support for establishment candidates declined due to the lower voter participation rate, but that it declined more for them than did votes for Action Caucus candidates for President and Executive Officer positions. While the ranks of the establishment are thinning and disintegrating, the progressive opposition continues to unite and grow.
Now it is your turn to get involved. Help us to build a positive alternative for all Toronto substitute teachers, to win job security, decent benefits, paid P.D. and dignity at work. Join the Action Caucus by replying to this e-message, or by phoning: 416 - 588-9090.
Posted here are some photos taken at the Toronto OTBU AGM, April 28, 2010 at 4 Credit Union Drive. With only 124 of 1858 members in attendance at the Don Mills location, there were many empty chairs in the expensive banquet hall. The pictures show the OTBU ruling faction at the head table, Action Caucus candidate for V.P. Chris Sojka registering for the meeting, four activists at the microphone trying to obtain some answers from the Executive, Action Caucus candidate for President Peter Wilson speaking to the gathering, candidate Kathryn Winton at the podium, with Gurcharan Singh and others waiting for their turn.
Persistent demands by the Action Caucus for financial accountability and transparency clearly put the incumbents off their game plan. Harmful resolutions designed to pave the way to dissolution of the OTBU into the much larger full-time contract teachers' bargaining unit, and to enshrine honoraria of up to $500 for members and friends of the Executive, did not come to the floor. Unfortunately, neither did Action Caucus proposals for swift action on job insecurity and deteriorating classroom conditions see the light of day – to say nothing of our motions for democratic reform of the OTBU constitution.
OTBU 'leaders' side-stepped concerns about members' postal addresses missing from the data base, about members not receiving newsletters and mail-in ballots, and about Executive inaction re: school closures and declining work opportunities.
But the Chief Negotiator and the 1st V.P. did take the time to libel and slander Barry Weisleder (who is not a candidate for office at this time due to undemocratic OSSTF rulings). Their rude and misleading remarks will likely lead to charges against V. Zambrano and L. Bartram for violating the OSSTF constitution.
We attempted to extend the meeting time to allow members to address issues that matter to us all, but the majority in the hall (most of them conservative retirees) voted No.
The chair adjourned the meeting at 7 p.m., although very little business had been transacted. The depleted ranks then made a bee-line across the parking lot to the complementary buffet dinner and the free wine and beer bar at 60 Mobile Drive.
Several teachers newly joined the Action Caucus. Some volunteered to be scrutineers for our candidates in the mail-in ballot election, with votes to be counted at OSSTF on May 27. Now the main task ahead is to contact members, to ask them to vote for the Action Caucus Team of candidates for the OTBU Executive. If you can help, please call 416 – 588-9090. It's time to return this union to its members. Together, we can do better!
The sparsely-attended Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit (OTBU) General Meeting on November 25/09 was the scene of more stonewalling and obfuscation to try to conceal the failure of the local executive and provincial OSSTF to fight for job security and dignity for substitute teachers.
Our Action Caucus candidates for AMPA delegates received between 13 and 33 per cent of the votes cast, and presented a coherent and compelling alternative to the conservative clique that has undemocratically controlled the bargaining unit since 2003.
One minor victory was registered for the rank and file opposition: the meeting adopted a watered-down version of an Action Caucus policy resolution calling on the executive to ensure that actual proposed collective agreement language be made available to OTBU members prior to any vote on a tentative agreement. Now the policy asks the executive to present the contract language changes "if possible".
Concerning the battle for a 'cap' and reduction of the secondary panel dispatch list, the fight for needed action on the growing problem of student misbehavior, and the need for more accessible and more frequent OTBU meetings.... the struggle continues!
4:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Resolutions for Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Toronto OTBU
1. Contract Language should be presented prior to Ratification Vote
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Executive to
ensure that when the next actual proposed (Tentative) Collective
Agreement is presented, or made accessible to members, that the actual
collective agreement language be provided, along with any brief outline
of the contents, at least one week prior to the ratification vote.
Rationale: As is often the case, the ‘devil is in the details’. It is crucial that every effort be made to fully inform all Toronto OTBU members about the actual contents, in detail, of the Tentative Agreement well before any ratification vote is held, so that members can make an informed decision affecting their collective, personal and professional future.
2. Reduce the Secondary O.T. dispatch list
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Executive and
other appropriate Toronto OTBU representatives to ask the joint
TDSB/OTBU Staffing Committee and the Secondary Occasional Teachers'
Consultation Committee to take all necessary steps towards facilitating
the reduction of the Secondary Occasional Teachers' Dispatch List to
1200 names as soon as possible by a process of attrition and without
arbitrarily removing anyone currently on said list.
Rationale: The Toronto OTBU Executive and Collective Bargaining Committee promised in 2008 to make restoration of the cap on the secondary panel O.T. Dispatch list a high priority in bargaining. Later, they promised to work to reduce the list by attrition through the joint Staffing Committee. Neither promise was kept. Many members continue to suffer loss of work and income. Action is needed now, especially in light of declining student enrolment and TDSB plans to close a number of schools.
3. Investigation and Action on the Student 'Behavior' Crisis
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Executive to
undertake an investigation of the problem of student uncooperativeness,
rudeness and violence towards Occasional Teachers, the enquiry to be
conducted by soliciting in-put from the Membership at a General
Membership Meeting to be convened in March 2010, and by requesting
submissions in writing, with all recommendations for improvement of
student behavior to be presented by an OTBU delegation to the
appropriate TDSB Standing Committee, as well as in writing to the Chair
and Director of the TDSB, as soon as possible following the General
Membership Meeting convened for this purpose.
Rationale: Although this problem is not suffered exclusively by substitute teachers, it is a rapidly growing crisis and it leaves our members most vulnerable to its consequences.
4. More accessible Location for OTBU Meetings
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Executive to
ensure that all future Toronto OTBU meetings, including General
Meetings, AGMs, Committee meetings, Collective Bargaining, Tentative
Agreement and other informational meetings, Professional Development
activities, and OT work shops be held at a TDSB school or at an OSSTF
facility within 1 km of a TTC subway station on the Bloor-Danforth
line, between Dufferin and Coxwell Stations inclusive, or on the Yonge
Street line, between College and Lawrence Stations inclusive, or on the
University line, between Queen's Park and Eglinton West Stations
Rationale: OTBU meetings could be held at a TDSB or OSSTF facilities -- for little or no cost, as was done prior to 2003. Obtainable space at 1482 Bathurst Street (the OSSTF D12 building) and at TDSB schools situated close to a centrally located TTC subway station can easily accommodate an attendance of 200 or more. The banquet halls and restaurants used by the OTBU cost over $1000 for rental of meeting space, parking, and refreshments. Equally important is the fact that 60 Mobile Drive and adjacent venues, situated in Don Mills, are difficult to reach via public transit – taking over an hour and a half from any great distance. But any meeting space near a central subway station can be reached by public transit in about half that time. This is a particularly important consideration for members who have after-school family care and teaching duties. To save money and to make OTBU meetings more accessible to members who do not have cars, please vote for this motion.
5. More frequent OTBU General Membership Meetings
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Toronto OTBU Executive to convene at least four General Membership Meetings per school year, each meeting to be held no less than 30, and no more than 60 school days apart.
Moved by Barry Weisleder, seconded by Janine Carter.
Rationale: It is grossly inadequate for the Executive to convene only one or two OTBU General Meetings per school year to do the business of such a large bargaining unit. Prior to 2003 the OTBU held five or six General Meetings per school year, plus one or two Socials. Now the Executive operates almost entirely behind closed doors. At the infrequent General Meetings, members’ questions are often not answered, the meeting time is limited and inadequate. For a more open and transparent bargaining unit, for one that would maximize membership involvement and leadership accountability, at least four General Meetings per school year are necessary.
Proposed Resolutions for submission to AMPA 2010
1. For a Distinct Sector organization for Occasional Teachers in OSSTF
Be It Resolved that OSSTF Article 11 be amended by deleting
the current 11.1.3, and replacing it with an Article “11.1.3 Teacher
and adding an Article “11.1.4 Occasional Teacher Sector",
and delete from the Sector Council Constitution Article 126.96.36.199
Rationale: The OSSTF policy is to ‘merge’ or dissolve occasional teachers’ bargaining units into the full-time secondary teachers’ units wherever possible. The establishment in 2005 of a Teachers’ Sector in OSSTF, in which OT s are vastly outnumbered, was another step in that direction. The immediate interests of Occasional Teachers and contract teachers are not always identical. The working conditions, job security, benefits and remuneration of the two occupational groups are radically different. There are about 5,000 OT s, with a full-time equivalency in excess of 2,000 inside OSSTF. The combined Teachers' Sector has done nothing to improve job security or benefits, or to restore paid P.D. for OT s. Democracy demands that OT s have our own Sector to protect and advance the interests of our members. Please support this resolution.
What are your concerns, your beefs, your pet peeves? What changes would you like to see in working conditions at the TDSB, concerning our rights on the job, and opportunities for advancement?
Join us for refreshments, and conversation. Let’s create a common agenda.
have vital information to share concerning:
Our meeting will focus on plans for the OTBU General Meeting on Wed., November 25, 4:30 p.m. at the Latvian Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, one stop light east of the Don Valley Parkway. This will include the resolutions and candidates for AMPA 2010 that we will present to the OTBU meeting.
Thursday, October 29 at 5 p.m.
at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE),
252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-199,
St. George Subway Station
Refreshments will be served. Please invite your co-workers. Let us know what issues you would like to discuss, and that you plan to attend this important meeting.
For more information,
the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus Help Line at 416 -
Visit our new web site at: www.torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
While Toronto secondary school contract teachers continue to negotiate with the local school board, the OSSTF Toronto District 12 Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit (OTBU) wrapped up contract talks early in January.
What was the hurry? Why was there a deadline of less than one week to return mailed ballots and vote on the contract?
No wonder only about 550 of 2000 members voted.
Why was the mailed information about job security and the dispatch list so obscure and misleading? (A toothless “Staffing Committee”.)
Why the rush to entrench a dirty deal that condemns a growing number of substitute teachers to chronic underemployment and poverty?
answers are self-evident: to avoid close scrutiny, to prevent organized
opposition, and to quickly seal a rotten deal.
1. For another four years there will be no cap or limit on the secondary dispatch list. Despite six years of members demanding reduction of the list by attrition, and the re-establishment of a low cap (which OSSTF officials gave away in 2003), and despite promises from the OTBU president and chief negotiator last Fall to make cap attainment a top priority, there are neither. Two thousand subs will continue to chase about 600 jobs daily.
pathetic substitute for a crucial job security cap is a “Staffing
Committee”. The joint Management-Union committee “will be working to
develop protocols and language” to ‘manage’ the list. In other words,
the OTBU mis-leaders will collaborate with TDSB officials to keep
hundreds of substitute teachers going to the food bank and to the
2.Touted are benefit improvements, but they are minuscule.
The 3 per cent pay raise in each of the next four years was mandated by the provincial government. It was not the result of any local effort.
But the key point is this: without sufficient work, members cannot even qualify for benefits, or earn enough to keep head above water.
we are locked into this disastrous deal for four years – heading into
the worst worldwide depression since the 1930s.
The reduction in the Long Term Occasional (LTO) qualifying threshold to
10 days, and the recognition of daily teaching experience for LTO grid
placement, follow gains won by elementary supply teachers in Toronto
three years ago. The same applies to clauses about evaluation and
teaching materials. Instead of being leaders, as we were in the 1990s,
the secondary OTBU is a rather limp tail.
4. The ‘sheer chutzpah’ award goes to the OTBU President who claims in the March 2009 OTBU News that by “compressing” the daily salary grid from four steps to two, it “benefit(s) our most junior (vulnerable) members”. The truth is that many ‘new’ substitute teachers are retired teachers who have pension income and who enjoy most of the daily and LTO assignments from September through February each year.
in 1990, when we won the four daily experience steps, along with a 25
per cent pay raise, the result of a victorious three-week strike by
OPSEU Local 595 at the City of Toronto Board of Education, our bottom
pay step was near the top pay level in Ontario. The additional steps
were the icing on the cake – a recognition of the value of members’
experience and dedication. But after 1997, OSSTF negotiators crippled
OTBU contract bargaining and our wages fell behind most units in
The latest OTBU contract is a disgrace. It is a sell-out of the interests of members, especially the poorest, youngest, the most recent immigrants, women and racialized groups. It was a rushed ‘sell’ job. Once again, many members did not even get information or a ballot to vote.
In light of the deepening economic crisis, the contract should be re-opened immediately to negotiate a job security cap of 1200 names, or less.
Executive and negotiators should resign from office in shame.
A New Year is fast approaching, so it is time to reflect for a moment, to enjoy the holiday break, and to plan ahead.
2008 witnessed the onset of a global economic crisis. It was also a year of fewer job opportunities and lower income for many Toronto substitute teachers.
The OTBU Executive failed to provide leadership to deal with the jobs crisis. They appear to be in disarray, and continue to operate under the cloak of secrecy. They called a meeting to vote on provincial bargaining, but somehow the news didn't reach many, and barely 20 members showed up on Nov. 5.
At the OTBU meeting of November 26, the executive used familiar tricks to short circuit democracy. Still, the Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus made some headway.
Former Chief Negotiator Peter Wilson presented a motion to amend the agenda to ensure that a very timely resolution on collective bargaining would be discussed early in the meeting. The chair took the vote and declared the motion passed. But Liz Barkley objected and demanded a re-vote. Following two re-votes, after a number of members scurried into the hall, the chair declared the motion defeated.
The President, the Treasurer, and the Chief Negotiator gave reports. Questions from members were permitted. But the answers were typically evasive. The Executive still refuses to reveal the actual opening demands that will be presented to TDSB Management. The Executive still refuses to explain why it continues to waste $1000 to rent the Latvian Centre for each OTBU meeting, rather than book free space for an OTBU meeting at a central TDSB school, or at another central OSSTF facility, on the subway line. And they won't say how much each Executive member is being paid to staff the office in the luxury condo in Don Mills.
Candidates seeking to be a delegate to the OSSTF convention in March 2009 spoke to the meeting for a minute each. The vote results were announced at the buffet dinner and open bar -- long after the meeting ended. While the establishment slate won the 8 delegate positions, the Action Caucus-backed candidates received up to one-third of the votes (much better than past results when the ruling group won by a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 margin).
The first and second runners-up were Peter Wilson and Barry Weisleder -- and thus should be the first and second alternate delegates respectively at AMPA 2009 if past practice is followed. It is likely that one or both of us will be on the convention floor replacing resigned or absent delegates.
After the election segment, it was time to debate resolutions.
This year the Action Caucus submitted only six resolutions, instead of the usual dozen or more. But our effort to be more selective, and to put brand new resolutions to the top of the list, was thwarted by the OTBU Executive. They turned our list of resolutions upside down. They put recycled resolutions (about which they've complained in the past) at the top, and the new, timely ones at the bottom.
Why? Well, with only 30 minutes available to discuss resolutions, during a two and a half hour meeting, there just isn't enough time to discuss more than a couple of them. Thus, Action Caucus resolutions focusing on ensuring members' access to the actual negotiated contract language prior to voting on a tentative agreement, and concerning the growing problem of disrespect and violence towards substitute teachers in the schools, did not reach the floor before adjournment at 7 p.m.
What a shame! Once again, what a farce!
struggle continues. The forces working for constructive change in the
OTBU are growing. And we are uniting members old and new. It's only a
matter of time until we win accountability, transparency, fairness and
democracy in the Toronto OTBU.
I am running for a position on the Ontario College of Teachers' Governing Council. My nomination was officially received last week. The vote will take place between March 9 and April 14, 2009 to elect 23 representatives to the College Council.
You may vote
electronically via a ballot in the Members' area of the College web
site: www.oct.ca The March 2009 edition of Professionally Speaking will
include voting information, a list of candidates and detailed
I wish you
and your family a healthy and prosperous 2009.
The Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit special meeting on provincial bargaining, held at the Latvian Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive on Wednesday, Nov. 5, was a fraud and a farce -- of miniature proportions.
Only twenty members attended -- out of a total membership of about 2000. The attendance consisted mostly of the OTBU Executive, their hangers-on, and a handful of other folks. There was no notice to members of the meeting apart from an automated telephone message just a few days before Nov. 5 -- and many members did not receive even that.
A visibly embarrassed OTBU President David Hopkins tried to explain away the poor notice and poorer turnout. He then introduced provincial OSSTF V.P. Jack Jones and provincial negotiator Dale Leckie. They took up the task of persuading those present to vote in favour of giving the Federation a mandate to negotiate a deal with the Ontario government. That deal would create a financial framework for local contracts -- assigning pools of money for general purposes. In other words, it would establish how much provincial money would be available to fund working conditions and benefits in local contracts, and set a wage raise of 3 per cent in each of the next four years.
During a question period, several members asked for explanations and details. Officials gave answers that were, for the most part, vague and evasive. Hopkins and other members of the OTBU local bargaining team refused to enumerate our local bargaining priorities. They continue to keep secret the results of the membership bargaining issues survey of September 2007.
We did learn that not one substitute teacher sits on the provincial OSSTF bargaining team, and that only one sub from a small northern school board is on the 14-member "advisory committee" that sits in a back room, far from the actual negotiations.
Suddenly, the chair ended all discussion. Ballots were distributed, marked and collected. Soon the room emptied without any vote results being announced. No doubt, the Executive will report this as a 'victory' for democracy. They will assert that the vote to mandate provincial bargaining for Toronto substitute teachers, deceptively lumped together with the thousands of votes of regular contract teachers, was overwhelmingly for the Yes. They will omit to mention the fact that less than 1 per cent of the OTBU membership voted to set a precedent that may cripple the possibilities for progress for Toronto substitute teachers for years to come.
be many questions asked about this farcical process. Those questions
should be asked at the next OTBU General Meeting on Wednesday, November
26, 4:30 p.m. -- to be held at the same inconvenient location.
Over 1,500 didn't vote! Many received no voting package!
The Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit (OTBU) election results tabulated on June 5 show that Action Caucus candidates scored between 22% and 33% of the valid ballots cast. While none of our candidates was elected, this is an improvement on our vote results of two years ago, and of four years ago -- despite the fact that fewer votes were cast this time.
Yes, only 564 members, out of 2100 names on the OT list, voted for president. Even fewer voted for other offices. Only 492 voted for Second Vice President. Some may think this is a product of complacency.
But we discovered, via our telephone canvass, that once again, dozens of members, possibly hundreds, did not get voting packages at all. The phone numbers for many names on the membership list given to the Action Caucus by the outgoing OTBU Executive are inaccurate, so it is impossible to know how many members were disenfranchised.
What a damning indictment of the bogus mail-in ballot process, and of those officials who use it to perpetuate their control and mismanagement of the bargaining unit!
Nonetheless, through this flawed exercise the Action Caucus gained many new friends, allies and supporters. Clearly, the struggle for a democratic union and the effort to achieve justice for substitute teachers will continue, now stronger than ever.
The OTBU election has been challenged on the grounds that many members did not receive a voting package, plus the fact that, as in previous mail-in ballot elections, there is no way to verify that the votes submitted by mail were actually cast exclusively by Toronto OTBU members in good standing.
and telephone: 416 - 588-9090
Once again, it was like stepping through the looking glass into Alice’s Wonderland at the Toronto (OSSTF) Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit (OTBU) general meeting on November 29, 2007. A skewed agenda, reduced opportunities for members to speak or ask questions, capricious and mean-spirited chairing, and a chorus of trained seals made the gathering a memorable, if unsavory, event.
The gathering, one of only two OTBU general meetings held each year, started 20 minutes late, and was pre-determined to end 15 minutes earlier than usual. Large blocks of time were allocated to reports from the OTBU President, OTBU Treasurer, a provincial OSSTF executive member, plus “Other OTBU reports”. That left 45 minutes for the election of AMPA delegates, and scarcely 20 minutes to discuss 11 resolutions. One of those was submitted by the OTBU executive; the rest by the Action Caucus.
In fact, only four resolutions were debated at all. Others were either ruled out of order (the OTBU executive having provided no advice prior to the meeting as to how a simple re-wording might remedy the situation). Or, they were not addressed due to the manufactured shortage of time. Sadly, this excluded brand new proposals from the Action Caucus for special membership meetings to investigate the growing incidence of student misbehavior towards substitute teachers, to look into the dysfunctional dispatch system, and to publish monthly data on the size of the dispatch list.
David Hopkins, Toronto OTBU President, shrugged off the jobs crisis that is impinging on a majority of members. He insisted that school board statistics show that there’s more work than ever – then in the same breathe he conceded that declining student enrollment and fewer contract teachers means less work for substitutes. When the chair blocked a supplementary question to Hopkins, pandemonium erupted.
But one question was heard above the din: “Why did the executive issue a survey on collective bargaining priorities which omitted the Job Security Cap from the list of 10 issues?” The President’s transparently disingenuous answer: “We intended to include the Cap in our contract demands, so it was not necessary to put it in the survey.”
Ah, you may ask, when were they planning to tell us that? Many members have been agitating for reinstatement of the Cap for over four years, since the present pro-management OTBU controlling faction gave it away. Well, don’t ask.
Another question we’d like to have answered relates to a regressive article inserted into our contract in the last round of bargaining. It created a new status called RASTO’s (Regularly Assigned Short Term Occasionals). These are substitutes who are given teaching assignments every day in a particular school or group of schools. How many RASTO’s are there? Are most of them double-dipping retired teachers?
Then the financial report revealed that the Toronto OTBU has assets of over $174,000. $170,000 of that sits in a “Reserve Fund”. Treasurer Rudy Winter admitted that the entire executive is at the trough, collectively being paid $70,000 a year for “time release”. He also admitted that over $5,500 a year is spent on renting banquet halls for OTBU meetings that could be held free of charge at any TDSB school on the subway line. Still, with such a huge surplus in the bank, what is the rationale for continuing to extract a Special Local Levy of about 50 cents a day (on top of regular OSSTF dues of $2.69 a day) from each working member? There appears to be no rational reason for it.
The worrisome spectre of ‘province-wide bargaining’ (proclaimed by the Liberal government that, ironically, OSSTF helped to elect) haunts the coming year of contract negotiations. This should be of particular concern to substitute teachers whose issues and priorities have been treated by OSSTF officials, at the best of times, with a studied indifference. Province-wide bargaining, which for the moment OSSTF is resisting, would virtually exclude ordinary substitute teachers from any meaningful in-put and would consign our concerns to a place so distant in the background that negotiators would need a telescope to see them.
Despite extremely unfriendly OTBU meeting circumstances, the Action Caucus did an exemplary job of pressing for attention to important issues and demanding accountability from the secretive closed-circle known as the executive. We made some important progress too. Action Caucus member Maxine Harris was elected Alternate to the OTBU AMPA delegation. A few more votes would have elected an additional Action Caucus candidate. And that’s another reason why more OTBU members need to attend, despite the difficult-to-reach location deliberately chosen by the executive.
A further gain was the appointment of Brooks Rapley, a young, daily substitute teacher, by the OTBU executive to fill a vacancy on that body. Almost all the other members of the executive, and the membership of its appointed standing committees, consist of retired teachers with handsome pension incomes. So, the veil of executive secrecy may yet be lifted by a fresh breeze.
Nonetheless, there is no basis to place any confidence in the self-serving, incompetent, ruling clique which has presided over the incredibly shrinking democracy of the OTBU and its increasingly under-employed and ignored general membership. The general meeting of November 29 showed, once again, that the only sure remedy for the growing ills of Toronto secondary substitute teachers is to give the ruling rascals the boot, and to elect a team based on the principles of the Action Caucus.
And that is what hopefully will happen in the Spring of 2008.
Join us now in planning the transition to responsible, effective, democratic leadership and a rejuvenated, membership-driven, fighting union in 2008.
Come to the next Action Caucus meeting, which will be held in mid-March at OISE, 252 Bloor St. West.
Until then, enjoy the holidays. Have a safe, happy and healthy New Year.
For more information, visit the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus web site at: http://torontosubstitutes.tripod.com and telephone: 416 - 588-9090
Election of AMPA Delegates
Collective Bargaining Survey
Dear sisters and brothers, colleagues:
Please plan to attend the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit (OTBU) General Meeting on Thursday, November 29, 4:30 p.m., at the Latvian Centre, Eglinton Ave. E. and Credit Union Drive, 2 stop lights east of the Don Valley Expressway.
We invite you to join in the effort to restore union democracy, along with honest and effective representation, by speaking and voting for the resolutions submitted by the Action Caucus (see below).
We also invite you to send a strong voice to the annual OSSTF Convention, to advance the interests of all substitute teachers, by electing on Nov. 29 the following candidates to be your OTBU delegates:
Jagtar Singh Mann
The OTBU newsletter just mailed to your home, titled "Executive Memo", provides yet another sad but graphic illustration why members sorely need a change in direction and a change in representation in the bargaining unit. The newsletter reports that "there is more work available from the TDSB than in previous years". But the TDSB Help Desk personnel told us that there was less work available this Fall due to fewer teacher absences. Many members have experienced less work in recent weeks than we have experienced in many years. So, if indeed there were more jobs, who was getting those jobs?
This brings us to the "OTBU Collective Bargaining Committee Survey". (Please note that apparently there is a "Bargaining Committee", but there is no indication of who is on it, or who selected them.)
The Survey asks you to assign points to the bargaining issue(s) so as to rank them in the order of most important to you. There's just one problem. The most important issue -- job security -- is absent from the list. This is no accident. The people now in control of our local union gave away, in 2004, the best job security provision for substitute teachers ever in Ontario.
So, here is what we suggest you do.
Fill out the Survey by putting your name and TDSB employee number near the top as requested.
Then go to Point 10 on the list of issues.
Beside "Other issues (specify)" please write in the following:"Cap the O.T. list at 1200 names".
(You could add below it that the present number on the OT list be reduced by attrition.)
Then assign that issue a number of points close to 100.
Award your remaining points to any other issues you like, but realize that if you don't have enough steady work, year-round (and the only way to get it is to end the present situation where over 1800 substitute teachers are chasing 600 jobs a day), all other issues come a distant second to job security and the need for an OT list Cap.
Now, please respond to this message with any questions you have, and let us know that you plan to attend the OTBU General Meeting on November 29.
Oh yes, and don't forget to read the resolutions below.
Resolutions for Nov. 29, 2007 Toronto OTBU General Meeting which will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Latvian Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, just south of Eglinton, two lights east of the Don Valley Pkwy. The resolutions are presented by the Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus.
1. More accessible Location for OTBU Meetings
Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Executive to ensure that all future Toronto OTBU meetings, including General Meetings, AGMs, Committee meetings, Collective Bargaining, Tentative Agreement and other information meetings, Professional Development activities, and OT work shops be held at a TDSB school or at an OSSTF facility as close as possible to a centrally located TTC subway station.
Rationale: OTBU meetings could be held at TDSB or OSSTF facilities for little or no cost, as was done prior to 2003. Obtainable space at 1482 Bathurst Street (the OSSTF D12 building) and at TDSB schools situated close to a centrally located TTC subway station can easily accommodate an attendance of 200 or more. The banquet halls and restaurants used by the OTBU charge over $1000 for rental of meeting space, parking, and refreshments. Equally important is the fact that 60 Mobile Drive and adjacent venues, situated in Don Mills, are difficult to reach via public transit – taking about two hours from any great distance. But any meeting space near a central subway station can be reached by public transit in about half that time. This is a particularly important consideration for members who have after-school family and teaching duties. To save money and to make OTBU meetings more accessible to members who do not have cars, please vote for this motion.
2. More frequent OTBU General Membership Meetings Be It Resolved That this meeting request the Toronto OTBU Executive to convene at least four General Membership Meetings per school year to facilitate: the exchange of more information, greater leadership accountability, and more in-put from members, each meeting to be held no less than 30, and no more than 60 school days apart.
Rationale: It is grossly inadequate for the Executive to convene only one or two OTBU General Meetings per school year to do the business of such a large bargaining unit. Prior to 2003 the OTBU held five or six General Meetings per school year, plus one or two Socials. Now the Executive operates almost entirely behind closed doors. At the infrequent General Meetings, it refuses to answer members’ questions, it limits the meeting time to less than 150 minutes, and it fills the agendas with fluff. For a more open and transparent bargaining unit, for one that would try to maximize membership involvement and leadership accountability, at least four General Meetings per school year are necessary.
3. Investigation and Action on the Student ‘Behavior’ Crisis
Be It Resolved That this meeting direct the Executive to undertake a comprehensive investigation of the growing problem of student uncooperativeness, flagrant rudeness and violence towards Occasional Teachers, the enquiry to be conducted by soliciting in-put from the Membership at a special General Membership Meeting to be convened in March 2008, and by requesting submissions in writing, the results of which, including all membership approved recommendations for improvement of student behavior, to be presented by an OTBU delegation to the appropriate TDSB Standing Committee, as well as in writing to the Chair and Director of the TDSB, as soon as possible following the Special Membership Meeting.
Rationale: Although this problem is not suffered exclusively by substitute teachers, it is growing rapidly and it leaves our members most vulnerable to its consequences.
4. Investigation and Action on the Dis-functional Dispatch System
Be It Resolved That this meeting direct the Executive to undertake a comprehensive review of the so-called SmartFindExpress automated dispatch system as it affects secondary school occasional teachers at the TDSB, the enquiry to be conducted by soliciting in-put from the Membership at a special General Membership Meeting to be convened in March 2008, and by requesting submissions in writing, the results of which, including all membership approved recommendations for improvement of the dispatch system, to be presented by an OTBU delegation to the appropriate TDSB Standing Committee, as well as in writing to the Chair and Director of the TDSB, as soon as possible following the Special Membership Meeting.
Rationale: While problems associated with the automated dispatch system are many and ongoing, there has never been a consultation of rank and file substitute teachers either by Management or the OTBU Executive. It’s time that our voices be heard within the union and at the school board.
5. Eliminate “Preferred” Lists at TDSB Secondary Schools
Be It Resolved That this meeting direct the Executive to seek, at Consultation Committee and by other appropriate means, the elimination of the practice, within the TDSB, of secondary school administrators maintaining and utilizing ‘Preferred’ lists of Occasional Teachers enabling them to request certain OT s ahead of other qualified OT s on the TDSB secondary panel dispatch list for occasional teaching assignments.
Rationale: Cronyism, favoritism, even nepotism are significant factors in the distribution of occasional teaching assignments in the TDSB’s secondary panel. The job of the union is to do its best to ensure that its members can make a decent living, and to reduce instances of school administrators providing occasional teaching assignments on the basis of old school ties or other factors that have little to do with equity, fairness, economic need and academic subject qualifications.
6. Report the latest data on the OT dispatch list
Be It Resolved That this meeting direct the Executive to seek and make known to OTBU members, via each edition of the OTBU News, the Executive Report, and by any other appropriate means, the number of occasional teachers on the TDSB secondary panel Occasional Teaching dispatch list.
Rationale: This data is pertinent to the daily job prospects of most OTBU members. We have a right to know it, and the union has a duty to obtain and provide such information to members. When over 2000 members are chasing only 600, or fewer available assignments each school day, that spells poverty for hundreds. Getting accurate data is a step towards better management of the O T dispatch list.
Proposed Resolutions for submission to AMPA 2008
1. Restore the Right of Members to Vote on Trusteeship
BIRT OSSTF Bylaw 24 be amended by insertion of a Bylaw 24.3.1 which shall read: "The bargaining unit or district members shall vote on the recommendation or initiation of trusteeship at the Special General Meeting specified in Bylaw 24.3.0, and by a majority vote of those members present and voting may veto the imposition of trusteeship on their own local bargaining unit or district, as the case may be."
Rationale: The right of members to vote on any proposed trusteeship was rescinded by AMPA 2003, with drastic, immediate and lasting consequences for the Toronto OTBU. Members of the affected bargaining unit should be able to decide whether circumstances warrant the take over of their unit by provincial officials. Local problems should be resolved through local elections, or by other local corrective actions, under the direct control of members, rather than by provincial intervention potentially against the will of the membership.
2. For an End to Member Versus Member Charges at Judicial Council
Be It Resolved that OSSTF Bylaw 8 - Judicial Procedures, Bylaw 8.1.[b] be amended by deletion.
Rationale: Judicial Council should not be a forum for political opponents to lay charges against one another. That’s why other unions either don’t have such procedures, or rescinded them years ago, as did OPSEU in the 1980s. This amendment, if passed, would still enable the union to protect itself against strikebreakers through appropriate charges at Judicial Council. It would simply end the use of JC as a political forum. Judicial Council should never be a substitute for the electoral route. There are other measures available to ensure that OSSTF elections are fair. We don’t need ‘member versus member’ charges. They are a costly waste. Over $250,000 was spent in connection with the J.C. and Appeal Committee intervention into the life of the Toronto OTBU just in 2002-2003. That money would have been better spent on almost anything else. Let’s put local democracy first. Please support this motion.
3. For a Distinct Sector organization for Occasional Teachers in OSSTF
Be It Resolved that OSSTF Article 11 be amended by adding “11.1.3 Occasional Teachers’ Sector” and also by adding to the OSSTF Constitution an “Occasional Teachers’ Sector Council Constitution” which is identical to the PSSP Sector Council Constitution, except that the term “Occasional Teachers” is substituted for the term “Professional Student Services Personnel” in every instance.
Rationale: The OSSTF policy is to ‘merge’ or dissolve occasional teachers’ bargaining units into the full-time secondary teachers’ units wherever possible. The establishment in 2005 of a Teachers’ Sector in OSSTF, in which OT s are vastly outnumbered, was a step in that direction. The immediate interests of Occasional Teachers and contract teachers are not always identical, and the working conditions, job security, benefits and remuneration of the two occupational groups are radically different. There are about 5,000 OT s, with a full-time equivalency in excess of 2,000 inside OSSTF. Democracy demands that OT s have our own Sector to protect and advance the interests of our members. Please support this resolution.
4. Equal Strike Pay
Be It Resolved That Occasional Teachers on legal strike who had teaching assignments for more than two teaching days on average per week during the previous 60 days, and who perform picket duty or other designated strike-related activities for at least four hours per school day on strike, be paid $175 per week in strike allowance.
(Estimated provincial annual budget cost: $50,000)
Rationale: Nobody wants to be on strike. Strike pay is no great reward for picket duty and the hard times of a strike situation. But there should be fairness and equality in OSSTF policy concerning strike pay. Currently, a teacher who becomes an LTO just days before a legal OT strike begins would receive $175 a week in strike pay. But a daily assigned Occasional Teacher who worked on average for 4 days a week for the six or seven months leading up to a legal OT strike would be paid only $70 a week in strike pay. How fair is that? In principle, strike pay should be the same for every striker. Perhaps the union cannot be expected to pay the full amount of strike pay to members who are not actively teaching. But the existing OSSTF policy is blatantly discriminatory. In the interests of democracy and membership unity, union policy should provide equal strike pay to active daily substitutes and LTOs.
A Short History of the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Union
In response to many requests, here is a brief account of the history of our union, told from the standpoint of an organizer.
Our story begins in the mid-1970s. When I graduated from teachers’ college at the University of Toronto there were few full-time teaching vacancies in southern Ontario. I worked as a substitute teacher and soon discovered how poorly my co-workers and I were being treated by management. In the early 1980s a group of us petitioned the school board to issue pay to subs every two weeks, instead of on a monthly basis, with a one month delay. We won that concession, and decided to organize to win more improvements. We had dreams of a big pay hike, a guaranteed minimum amount of work and a decent guaranteed salary per week, and paid fringe benefits. In 1983 we unionized City of Toronto substitute teachers; the secondary and elementary panels were organized together. We became a local of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. We had approached the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), but it refused to organize us. Then OSSTF, led by Liz Barkley, conducted a raid on our secondary bargaining unit in 1986. We defeated the raid in a vote run by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
OPSEU Local 595 (City of Toronto Substitute Teachers) waged a three-week long strike in 1990. Most people, including some of our own members, said it could not be done. But we picketed school board headquarters, its truck delivery depot, and a few large schools. Over three-quarters of our members honoured the strike (the Long Term Subs were the biggest problem). We got support from other unions on the line, and received plenty of media attention. We held large weekly rallies featuring live music, snack food and solidarity speakers, who came from far and wide. Finally, we won. We achieved break-through gains in wages (a 25% increase), job security (a capped list), pay for daily teaching experience, a paid union-run annual professional development day, and access to shared-cost health benefits. Over the course of 15 relatively happy years in OPSEU, we defended and improved upon those gains. We held general membership union meetings every month or two. We built up a large steward body, filed many successful grievances, conducted educational seminars, produced a regular ‘open to all in-put’ newsletter, held pre-holiday and summer socials, joined the Toronto Labour Council, and participated in many progressive campaigns within and beyond our work place. Our militant, democratic local union was widely admired.
But in late 1997 Ontario Conservative Premier Mike Harris ‘kidnapped’ us. By the stroke of a pen he legislated us out of OPSEU and into the teachers' federations. The new law separated secondary and elementary substitutes in the old downtown Toronto school board. (Some think this move was a sop to the secondary and elementary teachers’ federations for the government's removal of the high-dues-paying principals and vice principals from those unions.) The provincial government also amalgamated six local boards in Metro into one mega-school board for all of Toronto, the third largest school authority in North America.
In OSSTF, substitute teachers immediately faced a wall of hostility and a barrage of belittling treatment. Some of us had heard about the elitism, stifling formalism, and hyper-centralism of OSSTF, but up close and in person it was truly a case of culture shock. Provincial leaders of the union resented our local strength, our dedication to workers who they consider to be their inferiors, and our autonomy in action. In the 1998-99 round of teacher negotiations, provincial OSSTF officials signed local teacher contracts that increased on-call duties and the general work load of regular teachers. Thus, they blithely sacrificed the work and incomes of substitute teachers.
In 2001 a group consisting mostly of conservative-minded, retired teachers, who work as substitute teachers to supplement their pension incomes, launched a guerilla war inside our bargaining unit. They used parliamentary procedures to disrupt meetings.
In June 2002 our militant, democratic slate of incumbents, joined by new activist candidates, defeated the retirees-dominated slate in a very well-attended local election meeting. But the losers would not accept the result. They had laid disciplinary charges against us inside OSSTF. The charges were frivolous, vexatious, absurd – at best, exaggerated. They accused us of being rude to them; in reality they were gazing at their mirror image. But the truth did not matter. They had OSSTF money, lawyers and political power behind them.
The OSSTF Provincial Executive’s publicly stated policy favours dissolving substitute teacher bargaining units into the full-time teacher units where substitutes would continue to pay dues but would have almost no audible voice.
The OSSTF disciplinary body, the Judicial Council, made a mockery of due process, upheld a majority of the charges, and removed from office the 20-year long serving local President (the writer of these lines) who had just been re-elected. They barred me from holding office for 18 months. Upon appeal, they increased the ban to 32 months, and later hiked it up to 44 months. OSSTF officials purged my replacement, Maureen Malmud, then they purged the entire elected bargaining team. And then they removed the entire elected executive. They had already seized our operating funds back in October 2002. But the elected local Executive resisted the purge, and fought back. So, in Spring 2003, provincial OSSTF put the entire Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit in trusteeship, which is a kind of union penalty box that allows the top bureaucrats to take full control.
During trusteeship the top brass ‘negotiated’ a collective agreement. The shameful deal they signed gave away our job security, liquidated our paid P.D., and allowed the employer to erode our benefits. To ratify the sell-out deal they conducted a bogus mail-in ballot. It was done Maggie Thatcher-style, preceded by false propaganda mailed to every member’s home. Then the top brass convened a meeting at an obscure location where officials pushed through an undemocratic replacement local constitution. Direct elections always held at membership meetings were suddenly replaced by bogus mail-in votes. Membership meetings, normally held five times a year, were reduced to a minimum of one a year. Membership on standing committees, reps to union-management committees, and delegates to labour council, always elected in the past, are now all appointed by the executive in camera.
Today we face a dire economic situation. Ordinary substitute teachers, workers who don't have pensions or other income, are hard pressed to make a living. Since the job security ‘cap’ on the dispatch list was abandoned by the OSSTF brass, the number of teachers on the dispatch list has increased by over 50%, while the number of daily jobs has declined. Most of the teachers added to the list are retirees. They are taking most of the available daily and long term assignments, leaving the rest of us with less work.
OSSTF officials show little concern about this disparity, about this income crisis. They continue to collect dues. Does it matter to them who the dues-payers are? In fact, they may think this disparity will help them to complete the purge, and to dissolve our unit into the larger full-time teachers’ unit, where substitutes would have little say.
But rank and file substitute teachers are fighting back. We formed the Toronto Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus. We take direct political action. We run candidates in OTBU elections. We leaflet OSSTF events, publish bulletins and newsletters, maintain a telephone help line (416 - 588-9090) and an informative web site. We lobby the Ontario Minister of Education, initiate legal action, and inform the entire labour movement about the justice of our cause.
We proudly joined with members of several other unions to initiate the Workers' Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition. Every year we march in the Toronto Labour Day Parade and we hold open forums at conventions of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
"Give up" is a phrase not found in our vocabulary. We will fight until we restore union democracy. We will fight until we regain the job security, the decent pay and the working conditions we had – and more! We recognize that ours is a fight for a major change of direction, not only in OSSTF, but across the whole labour movement. We are up against powerful forces. But we also know that we are part of the working class. We know that working people produce all the goods and services, and that workers are the overwhelming majority of society. We just have to get management and their stooges off our backs.
Finally, we realize that we have no choice but to wage this struggle. For us, it's a matter of survival. Together, we shall overcome all obstacles. Together, we will do it sooner, rather than later. We invite you to join us today!
Past-President (1983-2003), Toronto Substitute Teachers
Tuesday, May 15 at 4:30 p.m.
at the Latvian Centre, corner of Eglinton Ave. E. and Credit Union Drive, 2 stop lights east of the Don Valley Parkway
For more information,
call the Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus
Help Line at 416 - 588-9090.
Question TDSB and union officials at P.D. event, Feb. 16, 9 a.m. at 60 Mobile Drive
First they Purge you, Then they ‘Merge’ you
Contact Us: Hotline: 416 - 588 - 9090 | email: Substitute Teachers' Action Caucus