A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Democracy, the Charter and Ontario Teachers

Here in Ontario there is currently a 'dispute' between the teachers and the government as to what the teachers unions want and what the taxpayers can afford, the government has passed legislation freezing wage levels for the next couple of years of teachers for the next couple of years. In response to this the teachers unions have been very vocal in their condemnation of this action with numerous radio and newspaper ad's. At least two such ad's say that this restriction on wages and benefits “undermines the guarantees made to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and is somehow undemocratic. Now I have no great love of large unions, they are in my view just about as accountable and democratic as the Harper regiem but they do have certain rights under Ontario Labour Laws. We all know that when a large union and a large employer lock horns the rhetoric gets heated but I take great exception when a TEACHERS union representative starts invoking charter rights that simply are not true.

The Elementry Teachers Federation of Ontario say:-
“In September, the Ontario Liberal government, supported by the Progressive Conservative Party, passed Bill 115. This legislation is an unprecedented attack on free collective bargaining rights. Collective bargaining gives employees a voice in determining their wages and working conditions, and has, historically, set the stage for the benefits we all now enjoy, such as health care and CPP.
Bill 115 undermines the guarantees made to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And even though it affects the education sector today, it sets a dangerous precedent for all Ontarians in the future. In fact, the government is already threatening other public sector workers.”

They also say:-
"The Charter also guarantees the right not to be deprived of fundamental rights. It protects employees from being forced to work under terms and conditions which are coerced, dictated, or imposed by the state. Certainly Bill 115 violates these rights on many counts."

"We want all Ontarians to understand that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms exists to protect the rights of individuals, even when governments seek to override them. That is the strength and backbone of democracy in Canada" said ETFO president...

There is no clause in the Charter that “protects employees from being forced to work under terms and conditions which are coerced, dictated, or imposed by the state” it simply says that “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”.

The freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication: freedom of peaceful assembly; and (importantly) freedom of association.
It does not say anything about work terms and conditions except to say that individuals are free to move elsewhere to seek employment (freedom of mobility) to say that it does is both misleading and adds nothing to the 'debate'.

Perhaps we should all invoke the charter because we are being discriminated against because we do not get 75% of our income when off sick, or excessive number of weeks holidays after being employed at the same organization for a few years or perhaps because our income does not even come close to that of most teachers. Yes, it can be a thankless task and yes it can be stressful but so can many other jobs, and if the 'employer' (that’s us) cannot afford the compensation package demanded then the 'employee' has a choice, live with the status quot (quite generous given the circumstances) or they can always invoke those 'democratic' mobility rights and find a job elsewhere.

We have enough problems with undemocratic actions by government without pretending that this issue is one of them, better that we concentrate on more fundamental issues such as keeping parliament open, access to information, and elections untainted by fraud........and not loading more debt upon future taxpayers.

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1 comment:

Skinny Dipper said...

This will likely be an issue where the Supreme Court may "read-in" the rights of teachers and their unions. The Supreme Court will need to determine the rights of teachers to association and the meaningful aspects of it. The unions will likely make their case that not only did the legislature impose "conditions of employment" on the teachers, the legislature approved the suspension of any challenges in any lower courts by the unions. The teachers may have a case on this point.