Union leader accepts government job after calling off teachers protest
What a difference a day makes.
At this time yesterday, P.E.I. teachers were up in arms over government's plan to cut 28 teachers this year after four consecutive years of teaching cuts.They were getting ready for what promised to be a fiery protest at the P.E.I. legislature later today and were prepared to keep pushing until government reversed the cuts.
Then last evening, the premier's office released a statement saying talks between the union and government had resumed after the union walked away from contract negotiations with the province last week.
The premier's office said the 28 teaching cuts would be reviewed. The Teacher's Federation then issued its own statement, saying it is confident this review will lead to the reinstatement of the 28 teaching jobs.
The union also called off the protest it was organizing and that it will return to the bargaining table. The reason? The union feels teachers finally are being listened to. Then, less than 24 hours later, Teacher's Federation President Gilles Arsenault (whose last day as president is today, by the way) announces this morning he has accepted a job with the department of education.
Let's break this down.
Government says it will “review” the teaching cuts planned for this year. There is no commitment attached to this review, which is why it is confusing as to why the union is so confident these jobs will be reinstated. That is, unless they've been told something they're not sharing with their members or with the public, which would be counter to their argument all through this dispute about the need for open dialogue.
Meanwhile, teachers and parents who were preparing to rally at the legislature to show support for teachers schools were quickly called off. Why? Government has made no direct promises that we are aware of, but government does appear to be backpedaling under pressure. One would think this would be the time to turn up the heat, not back off, if the union wants government to actually commit to reversing the cuts altogether.
And as for this whole business of Gilles Arsenault, the union leader who is in charge of leading contract negotiations with government, applying for a government job in the first place doesn't sit well. Then, one day after he calls off a teacher's protest, he announces he's taking that government job? The optics are terrible – bad for government for offering a job to a union leader while it is in bargaining with that union and also making cuts to teachers; bad for Arsenault for applying for a government job while he is supposed to be representing teachers in the face of austerity budgets and doubly bad for him for calling off a protest as he walks into his new office at the department of education.
Just a suggestion, but it sounds like a perfect first case for Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s new ethics commissioner Shuana Sullivan-Curley to delve into.