One of Michael’s axioms states that “Economics is the only weapon of war that can be safely turned against a state’s own citizens”. If you have been following the harvest of the working class over the last fifteen or twenty years, you will understand what I mean.
Tomorrow at noon there will be a rally for the teachers. The teachers have been waging a silent war with this government these last ten years in an effort to preserve conditions for our kids in class, as well as conditions for themselves. This last year has had the teachers staging an almost invisible job action, invisible mostly due to the willingness of the media to not report the details of the action. Predictably, with no public awareness came no public outcry, and therefore no response from the government.
If you were paying attention during the invisible ambulance strike, that will sound familiar.
But this rally isn’t just about teachers and school conditions. It’s about a government who has shown greater and greater contempt for the working class, and especially their needs. The people who make this province function are being told time and again that they are not permitted to participate in this province’s wealth, for no obvious reason.
The tool being used to do it is the government’s marketing term “Net Zero”
The teachers, along with all the public sector unions, were told that they would need to negotiate their contracts under “Net Zero” guidelines. These guidelines are essentially nothing more than government mandated rollbacks of wages and benefits. The effect on the ground is to give the government the right to remove funding for programs that are truly essential, such as special needs kids, while having the added “bonus” of pitting teachers against students, bus drivers against passengers, etc, etc, for ever scarcer resources. As well, it allows the government to do it’s dirtiest work invisibly; Net Zero means whatever inflation is, that’s your pay cut.
Soon other unions will be facing that same blank wall across the bargaining table, and speaking frankly, I think they are deluding themselves if they think being there is worth the time.
Net Zero, as this teachers action is showing us, is all about removing the unions from the bargaining process. How can bargaining happen, when the terms are set before the first word is uttered? That is not negotiating or bargaining, that’s dictating.
The teachers would like to have mediators take the case, but the government has already ruled that out. The government does not want to be placed in the same position they were in a decade ago, when Christie tore up a legal contract mediated with the teachers … and was later found guilty of breaking the law for it … and imposed a contract from on high.
The optics look bad, and they know the mediator will not listen to bullshit republican rhetoric like Net Zero.
What’s a union to do then?
Do not go to the table until Net Zero is scrapped.
Yes, that’s possible. The Bus drivers of Calgary went 7 years without a contract because management was being intransigent, and in the end they got what they needed, and retroactive pay for those seven years.
It has happened in the past, and it should happen again now.
Below is a motion I ended up shelving, mostly due to my own inability to imagine the government could possibly have the balls to try Net Zero again;
NOTICE OF MOTION
To be included in the agenda for the February 2011 general meeting.
I, Michael Leamy, in an effort to restore the collective bargaining rights of the members of CAW local 333 move that CAW local 333 adopt the following policies;
In the event of legislated interference with normal collective bargaining, such as limits to remunerative increases, benefit packages, use of anti-union “Net Zero” style tactics, or any/all other such mandated limits or strictures:
i) CAW local 333 will not appear at any negotiations until such times as the legislated conditions are removed.
ii) If such legislation is passed before the expiration of the current contract, CAW local 333 will begin job actions as the members see fit until such times as the current contract expires;
iii) Once the current contract expires the members will withdraw their services until conditions are such that collective bargaining can resume.
iv) In support of our brothers and sisters in other unions, job action will also be undertaken, as the members of CAW 333 see fit, as a show of solidarity to support public sector union members who are in a situation where their rights have been removed through legislation.
Sounds like it might have come in handy now, eh? The spirit is still valid, the action is more than warranted, and the teachers tomorrow are going to have to face the hard fact that playing with kids who don’t obey the rules is always a bad idea.
Tomorrow at noon, support the teachers. They need it more than anyone right now. While you are there, remember that other unions are next, and legitimizing a policy which is clearly designed to end collective bargaining is not something they should be doing. By doing so we hurt ourselves, and just as importantly we hurt every citizen of this province who is not so lucky to be working under the umbrella of an organized workforce. They are truly going to be the big losers at the end of this game, and the only winners will once again be those willing to harvest the working class, for fun and profit.