Friday, January 10, 2014

Lost Faith

While we were paraded outside for show, OSSTF was inside the Ontario
Liberal Party Convention making contributions and setting up OSSTF's
outgoing president for a run at a Liberal seat at Queen's Park.
After doing some math on my last paycheque of 2013 I'm feeling the burn of the past year.  As a younger member still on the grid, my salary is supposed to increase with experience, I'm supposed to happily pay into pension knowing that it's well run and will be there for me, and I'm supposed to pay union dues and feel it worthwhile.

On our Christmas eve paycheque I paid 17% of what I made to pensions, more than 2/3s of that was to the Ontario Teacher Pension Plan, which just got de-indexed (not for older members, just for those of us who will still be teaching in twenty years).  I'd be foolish to think that this pension will be there in anything like its current form once the boomers have eaten through it, yet I'm paying more into it than any previous generation of teacher ever has... for something that is already being stripped back.

On my last paycheque I took home 58%  of what I earn.  Almost 20% goes
to a pension that has just been de-indexed for newer members, I pay almost
$100 a month so OSSTF provincial can live their dreams of becoming
liberals at Queen's Park one day.
Then there was the 14% taken out for the 'Ministry mandated day" - that would be the day where half the people in education come to work and get paid, but no contract teachers do - so there are no kids there.  It's the government's brilliant idea to save money by laying off teachers for a day but paying all the support workers to be there not doing anything.  Solid financial sense brought to you by the Ontario Liberal Party.

On a typical paycheque I get 42% of my earnings siphoned off by taxes, pensions, union dues and the various other hangers on.  On the December 24th paycheque I got a whopping 56% in deductions.  As January starts I also get bled by the Ontario College of teachers.  Whatever you think teachers might make, their take home isn't anything special.  When I worked as an apprentice millwright 22 years ago I took home about what I take home now as a teacher with 9 years of experience, an honours specialization, and working as a department head (the equivalent of a middle manager in business) - and I'm taking home what an apprentice millwright made? ... twenty years ago?

With everything I pay for belonging to this 'powerful teacher's union', I can't tell where my union ends and the current government begins (and I'm not the only one).  Instead of protecting me, I feel like I'm being herded into an abattoir by shepherds who are supposed to be protecting me.

Many people, teachers included, pretty much ignored what the Ontario Liberal Party (with Conservative support) did last year.  When a provincial government can create legislation that is illegal and flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, and no one seems to care, I have to wonder where we're all headed.  We're willing to toss out our most cherished ideals of democracy and fairness for economic fearmongering.  Previous generations of OSSTF are rolling over in their graves that our provincial bargaining unit has been complicit in this.

Meanwhile, OSSTF has taken on a political non-starter - ending publicly funded private religious education the UN thinks it's a bad idea, you can ask John Tory, the former head of the Ontario Conservative Party what you get for trying to make Ontario's publicly funded school system fair.  Hudak has no interest in addressing that waste of money, even if it violates human rights codes - of course he had no trouble backing the McGuinty Liberals on Bill 115 either.  When it is overturned in court, Hudak & McGuinty will have been partners in one of the most expensive mistakes in Ontario history.  With the current anti-catholic system rhetoric, I can't help but feel that OSSTF is once again doing OLP dirty work, perhaps attempting to sway public perception to the point where their friends at the OLP can safely make a political move in order to appear financially conservative again.  Or perhaps it's just a smokescreen as the Bill 115 charter challenge is quietly ended which would greatly please the OLP.  I wonder who'll get a free pass into a Liberal nomination this time.

Ignore my predictions at your own peril!  I can be
remarkably prescient!
I'd love to see OSSTF provincial undo the damage McGuinty did by forcing us into a provincial bargaining unit (being one large unit, strikes become an impossibility).  But this would mean OSSTF provincial would have to give up the power that McGuinty basically forced on them, and it's hard to give up power like that.

If my union could once again become the grassroots, regionally sensitive organization that it once was, I think everyone would be served better and I would feel like my union worked for its members rather than hidden political mandates.

In the meantime I guess I just keep ponying up dues each month and paying for other people's fully indexed pensions.  It'll be interesting seeing how effective OSSTF provincial's rallying cry will be this time around.  They've made enemies of the principled, all that's left are the apathetic.  It doesn't bode well unless a radical change in direction happens.

That this latest round of provincial executives seem intent on doing things the same way suggests that nothing is going to change, which is a tragedy for both teachers and the people who depend on them.