Who paid for the pizza? Public money did - your money. Do we have labour peace in the educational system?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 31st, 2015


Something doesn’t smell right.

An astounded public has discovered that the provincial government has been giving grants to some teacher unions, over $2 million this year. The province is apparently forking out the money to facilitate province-wide negotiations. But no one will miss the irony of their government claiming these pay-outs are being made to improve efficiency.

Negotiatons table

They were province wide negotiations – and someone had to pick up the tab – the government did it with your money.

A successfully negotiated labour contract concludes when both parties are convinced the other one got the better deal – a win-win, but feeling like a lose-lose. But when the employer (provincial government) is giving the employees’ bargaining agents money, the outcome is a little more lopsided – a double win for the union and another lose for the tax payer.

At a minimum, this has to be a conflict of interest, for both sides, but particularly from the employees’ perspective. Can one really trust that their union is working for them if it is taking money from the guys across the table? At least two unions have refused the money for that very reason.

Sands and Wynne

Do you think they will figure it out – one of these two woman asked the other?

Since this first broke, the government appears to be caught off guard, shifting its stance by the minute. First they claimed this was normal practice and that no detailed accounting for the money was necessary. Now, it appears that this year’s money hasn’t been doled out and will only be paid on proof of receipts.

But the elephant in the room is why the relatively affluent unions can’t pay their own way. And to add another complication, the latest word is that these payouts may not be made in the future. So why were they needed before, or at all?

Already, some skeptics are questioning whether this is payback for the last election, in which the unions, presumably helped the Liberals win by authoring anti-Hudak advertising. That scenario should be unthinkable – what we might see somewhere else – but not in civilized Ontario. So the sooner the Premier can effectively deal with this issue, the better.

Sands Liz

Ontario Minister of Education; big spender.

Stuff happens, after all. Some well-meaning bureaucrat got the union folks to agree to province-wide negotiations, providing they were compensated for their extra travel costs, hotels, taxis, pizza… And then this minion convinced a busy minister to sign on to the deal – and presto – another crisis is born.

What kind of professional trade union would accept money from the other side? We know Toronto is an expensive city, but are the teachers’ unions so hard up that they can’t afford to travel to the big smoke? These are the unions, with thousands of members sharing in one of the most successful pension plans anywhere, right.

With the election of the Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa, Premier Wynne is perfectly positioned to help deliver some key programs, from improving our pensions to building critical transportation infrastructure in the GTA. The last thing the government needs is a distraction from that business.

It is early in the Wynne electoral term and this relatively small issue may blow over, given our historically short political memories. But then voters have a habit of eventually changing political parties, even in Alberta. One need only to recall how public perceptions about strong unions and well-compensated teachers played into the hands of Mike Harris, and the chaos that ensued after his election two decades ago.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

Background links:

Unions Accountability       Labour Peace      Union Threats      Ontario Teachers Pensions

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6 comments to Who paid for the pizza? Public money did – your money. Do we have labour peace in the educational system?

  • Bill Sullivan

    I have to agree, what union would accept money from the boss in order to facilitate negotiations. That does not excuse the Wynne government from the absolutely bizarre idea of paying the unions to negotiate. This is one more incident that has me wondering if I made the right decision in voting for Miss Wynne.

  • D.Duck

    John: “The government effectively held the major unions to $0 yet again, for the 3rd bargain round.”

    Unsure where you read this but it is not factual unless you are using Wynne mathematics which predicts net zero over 20yrs (like she did with the Hydro One union deal). What a crystal ball she must have (please read no pun into that line).

  • C Jester

    Just another link in the Wynne chain – plan ineptly, spend foolishly, create scandal, deny guilt, then repeat cycle ad nauseam. All while smiling.

  • Sheila Ludgate

    I sincerely hope this issue doesn’t just ‘blow over’ since it’s another example of an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars and smells like a payoff to me. It is not just a small issue.

  • D.Duck

    Come on Ray. This is just another Wynne Dalton moment among many. They all blow over but there is such a plethora of them that I getting disoriented. What happened about the eraseing the computer scandal, the ornge helicopter scandal, the MPP job offer scandal, coal plant scandal, hydro one & teacher’s raises scandal, ehealth scandal………..jeez, I know I forgotten atleast half a dozen more.

    Of course this union pay off, now at approximately 7million tax payers dollars sans receipts, plays a role in politics. The day after the HS teacher’s union got their raises, an anti-harper media commercial was aired and paid for by the HS teacher’s union (look it up). Coincidence?????

    The thing is, if Wynne truly looked into a mirror she would see a reflection of Harper looking right back at her. She is identical to Harper in every way. She is a deceitful, manipulating, bullying and a controlling autocrat. Off to China this week instead of staying to face the oppositions’ questions about the true cost and long term revenue loss of selling 60% of Hydro One. Coincidence???

    Just because her gender and sexuality is slightly different from Harper’s doesn’t mean that she can’t be just as egregious. In fact, I am glad that she is in power because she emphasizes that a politician’s gender and sexuality plays NO ROLE in their ability to have morals, ethics, empathy and common sense. See, any politician from any political party can be an arse!

    It’s about the person and not their gender or sexuality. Hold all politicians’ accountable and responsible for their actions, actions that are to be made transparent. This holds true even at the municipal level as well as all organizations that are publicly funded, e.g., School boards, Hydro One, Hospitals, etc.

  • John Skardzius

    How this is a point of contention is beyond me. That the government elected to hold a year’s worth of negotiations in the city rather than somewhere inexpensive is more the issue. The $2Mil offset costs. Call it the cost of doing business. The government effectively held the major unions to $0 yet again, for the 3rd bargain round. It also extracted major concessions on benefit coverage. The $2 Mil seems like a bargain in the context of the whole deal. If we all want to be outraged, let’s view what lawyers, plumbers, accountants, and small business people get away with in terms of government largesse…huge tax write offs for dinners, Jays games, strippers, etc. Those are called “legitimate business expenses” and at least 20% are written off. This is standard practice. It amounts to hundreds of millions in lost tax revenues. Such benefits are not accrued to salaried employees. So, in the context of how money flows, this “outrage” is another example of the “dog barking up the wrong tree.”