[See the Testimony of Tom Paci]
Like the University of Manitoba, the Manitoba School Boards Association is supposed to be an entity independent of the Government of Manitoba, although schools receive a significant proportion of their funding from the Province.
And, like the University of Manitoba, the MSBA has its own governing structure and each school board manages its own budget.
And finally, like the University of Manitoba, the MSBA prides itself on its exceptional relationship with the Manitoba Teachers Society, and has a well-established, long-standing practice of successful and productive bargaining at 38 tables, one for each of Manitoba’s school divisions.
As we revisit Tom Paci’s testimony, we are reminded that, according to the numbers, most of the MTS/MSBA negotiations are remarkably successful, even though each school division negotiates a separate agreement in a separate bargaining process.
Over the 18 years prior to the 2018 round, 263 collective agreements were settled by agreement, while only 10 went to interest arbitration. (For the mathematicians among you, that is a 96% success rate). And there hasn’t been any interest arbitration since Seven Oaks in 2012.
Neither side ever wants to go to interest arbitration. Why? It is very expensive, sometimes costing up to $100,000 for each separate proceeding. (Again, do the math. For 38 tables, that is $3.8 million in unnecessary expenses. Hard to qualify that as fiscal responsibility.)
Eeewwww, yuck. Now we have to get reminded all over again about the stupidity of the Minister of Education’s press conference, you know, the one where the Government said –
Hey Manitoba School Boards, do we have a deal for you. You can’t raise your property taxes more than 2% per year.
What? You need more? Pshaw. Look at all the money we are saving you in teacher wages through the Public Services Sustainability Act.
Oh, wait, the PSSA isn’t in effect yet? Uhm, yeah, well the PSSA savings are …
Leaving aside how this destroys the defence that you cannot challenge the PSSA legally because it isn’t in effect yet, it was also an exceptionally effective way to toss a grenade into the already uncertain bargaining climate between the MTS and the MSBA.
As one of the reporters put it, if the wages are set then what is there for the teachers to bargain for fiscally speaking? And while the Minister was eager to suggest that this was exactly why the Government was setting the 2% restriction now – so that the school boards wouldn’t have to negotiate wages, the Government of Manitoba seems to have been unable to anticipate that the inevitable outcome would be that there would be no collective bargaining for teachers in Manitoba at all.
Everyone at the table knew it. And in fact, it was the school boards, as opposed to the teachers who said – forget this. Even trying to bargain in this context is going to be too harmful for our relationship.
So, the new reality of collective bargaining for teachers in Manitoba? Prior to the PSSA being passed? Success rate of 96%. After the PSSA is passed, proclaimed or not? Success rate of 0%.
As of today, there is no collective bargaining for Manitoba’s 15,000 teachers at all. Two tables tried briefly, and went swiftly to interest arbitration. The rest are going to wait it all out – the PSSA, the legal challenge, and the ever-fainter hope that the Pallister Government might have more sensible goals to pursue.
And with that the Province managed to destroy a relationship that’s been happy and harmonious relationship for about 65 years.