South Dundas - May 20, 2015 - Isn't it ironic that the very unions which supported
Kathleen Wynne and the provincial Liberal party during the 2014
election, are, one year later, protesting the actions of that party in
power? It is not just one union which has been hit with this irony
either, but on many fronts.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) spent $1.3
million in third-party election advertising in 2014, campaigning
directly and in-directly against a Progressive Conservative government
in Queen’s Park. Nearly 16 per cent of the $8.4 million in third-party
election spending in 2014.
What has that $1.3 million gotten ETFO? Instead of a party which was
mostly upfront about the intentions to cut jobs, ETFO helped elect a
party which lied to their members and the union executives. Now a
year later, instead of the union getting what they wanted, by
supporting and drinking the progressive Wynne “Koolaid”, the union
members get strife. Job action, work-to-rule, and potentially a
general strike action.
Talk to a front-line teacher and ask them if they really want to be
wearing the ETFO buttons in classrooms, or have to watch what they do
or don’t do so as not to cross a union rule. Teachers were hired to
teach and most who are there, want to do that job, not deal with union
politics or any politics. The only benefit to all of this is that the
provincial EQAO standardized testing has been postponed and likely
will not be administered.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is another
example. The IBEW is a member of the Working Families Coalition, which
is a “broad-based” group of citizens all who are against the
“mean-spirited right wing”. Working Families spent $2.7 million in
third-party advertising, which did not “support” Wynne, but certainly
went against the Hudak PC’s. Now IBEW members face potential workplace
change with the plan to privatize up to 60 per cent of the provincial
utility, Hydro One.
Same with another Working Families member union, the Ontario Nurses
Association. ONA members across the province have been seeing
individuals facing job uncertainty as hospital budgets are stretched
thin and the first place to cut is personnel. The Children’s Hospital
of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) announced 40-50 nurses will lose their jobs
just in the last week.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, another member of
Working Families. Same issues. UNIFOR, also a member of Working
Families, facing job cuts affecting their members everywhere in
Ontario’s public service.
For unions which painted the 100,000 job cut plan of Hudak as a
disaster, it certainly looks like the unions are not getting what they
bargained for from the horse they did back, the Kathleen Wynne-led
Liberal government. It is almost as if they were lied to, misled up
the garden path, sold a bad bill-of-goods.
The rank and file members of these unions, should remember this when
they vote in the next provincial election. Those same union members
should also remember who the leadership of their respective unions
are, and vote accordingly during their union elections. It is one
thing for a union to advocate for their members, to fight for fair
treatment of the workers they represent. It is another to straddle the
fine-line of advocacy politics.
In the case of Ontario’s public service unions, they crossed that line
and backed a party with a track record of biting the hand that feeds