Monday, April 19, 2010

This week we will pick on teachers

The Globe and Mail has just completed a nine month investigation in which it has discovered that the largest school boards in Ontario waste money. HELLO! What a shock! They should have asked me, I would have sped up their investigation. Look what the Globe decides to pick on.
The Globe discovered that school boards would rather hire experienced retired teachers than inexperienced new graduate teachers to cover for the contract teachers who have an extended illness or are on mat leave. This is absolutely true, but lets back up a minute to see if its crazy.
Most of you reading this are not, or have never been, a school teacher. Imagine being absent from your job for a day or two, the likelihood is that no one was hired to replace you for that time. Upon your return you catch up on the work back-log or even do some of the work from home. Not teachers; if the teacher is absent he/she requires a substitute, and that sub must be given instructions by the absent teacher. For short periods of time even freshly minted teachers may be able to handle such an assignment, hell a door stop probably could. What about extended absences? Would you trust an inexperienced teacher to deliver the program and manage the classroom for several weeks or longer? Well, neither do most contract teachers or their Principals. Realistic new teachers realize this, and accept being  paid on a graduated grid (when they get a contract) over ten years, because they are most incompetent when they start and become less so over time.
The Globe journalists seem to be hung up on the pay (no wonder), the retired substitute gets the vaunted teacher's pension, AND is paid at regular pay rates for the long term substitute job; not bad (to a point). The journalists are jealous because their jobs have been lately on tenterhooks, so who can blame them.
The issue here is not just double-dipping retired teachers preventing fresh young blood from entering the profession, its much deeper and wider than that. The issue is that public sector unions and governments have been in cahoots for years and now the chickens have come home to roost. Governments are looking for ways to save money and reduce their spending and the past deals based on old assumptions are no longer appropriate. The apparent waste in hiring substitutes needs to be addressed - but the unions/federations will not go quietly.
It's not just teachers, what about retired hydro employees who go on consulting contracts for their former employer? What about unionized LCBO workers who contract deals to sell liquor? Union people must sell liquor?  That's a skill?!
The crunch is coming folks, the public sector unions will be dealing with cash strapped governments at all levels soon and changes will be required. I hope the Globe does more of this digging, the voters need to know.        


  1. perhaps the globe needs to do a story on where unions are needed, like in the architecture and design industry. my husband puts in 12 hours/day and only has 2 days of holiday approved for the summer. the company doesn't even order food when he works 18-hour days nearing deadlines. weren't unions created so that people aren't taken advantage of?

  2. Be careful what you wish for.
    In a free market employees should be free to organize and form unions that can confront management with work related issues. Typically in professional situations (or any situation), supply and demand should dictate how employees are treated and paid. In an unfettered competitive market your husband can "shop around" his skills and maybe get a better deal somewhere else OR his current company will see how important he is at the next employee review.
    Unions by nature are "democratic" - everyone is treated or mistreated the same way. If an employee excels that will not be recognized - the "middle" dictates everything. Once upon a time in Ontario teachers pushed for "merit-pay", an incentive to work harder - a combination of factors destroyed that idea. Incentives don't work in unionized situations. Good (non-government) employers realize their most important assets are their employees, if they don't find another.

  3. i see your point. but those in the architecture field don't get paid fairly because fees are cut to attract clients (especially in this economy). also, "studio culture" condones all-nighters for the sake of design. how else can work-life balance be achieved without a union?

  4. "those in the architecture field don't get paid fairly because fees are cut to attract clients (especially in this economy)"
    That may be more a truth about "this economy" than the worth of the employee. Maybe this economy doesn't warrant the real estate business that is currently going on. Maybe the "boom" in real estate is only happening because interest rates are forced artificially low by the B of Canada. OR maybe there are too many in the architecture field - over supply = poorer working conditions. OR both.
    In a competitive market "work-life- balance" only happens after the competition is over......unemployment OR retirement :-).


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