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Less than ExemplaryLess than Exemplary

Less than Exemplary

You'll be hearing a lot of this type of doublespeak in the next while, so I thought it would be helpful to clarify a few things.

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Topics: Education, Leadership, Labour, Institutions
Less than Exemplary January 10, 2013  |  By Brian Dijkema
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The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) wants to strike this Friday. Wait, I'm sorry, they want to stage an "action" that "is a political protest unless the Ontario Labour Relations Board determines otherwise."

You'll be hearing a lot of this type of doublespeak in the next while, so I thought it would be helpful to clarify a few things.

The first is that the ETFO is the organization which represents the majority of teachers in Ontario. "Representative" is typically understood as someone who acts on behalf of someone else, but more deeply it refers to the notion of one person embodying someone else. The union is legally recognized—in fact obligated—by Ontario law to be all of Ontario's public elementary teachers. In fact, it, and the school boards it negotiates with, is legally forbidden to bargain individually. The point of collective bargaining is that there is one voice—a school board—speaking to another—the union. In this whole collective bargaining debacle, it can be said that the ETFO is the teacher.

Second, it's important to note that those whom we trust to teach our children have an increased duty to act rightly. It's not just the Bible which says that teachers have a higher duty, it's also labour law. Thus, it's well established that teachers—because of their duty and relationship with children—can be fired for conduct which might gain a lesser punishment elsewhere: drinking on the job for instance.

Thus, I think it's fair to suggest that the ETFO has an increased duty to speak honestly to Ontario's public.

Which is why it's extremely disappointing to see the ETFO speak about its strike this Friday in the language it's using. By calling it a "political action" and not a strike, it is deliberately misleading its members and the public. Section 81 of Ontario Labour Relations Act says this:

No trade union or council of trade unions shall call or authorize or threaten to call or authorize an unlawful strike and no officer, official or agent of a trade union or council of trade unions shall counsel, procure, support or encourage an unlawful strike or threaten an unlawful strike.

Section 83 goes even further: "No person shall do any act if the person knows or ought to know that, as a probable and reasonable consequence of the act, another person or persons will engage in an unlawful strike."

Section 1 of the Act defines a strike in this way:

"Strike" includes a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue to work by employees in combination or in concert or in accordance with a common understanding, or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit output; ("grève").

In other words, the ETFO can call its actions tomorrow a political protest or pumpkin pie, but if a union encourages its workers to cease work, or perform any other "concerted activity...to restrict or limit output," it's a strike. And that's exactly what they're doing.

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