This year has brought a number of interesting surprises that have changed the future of education forever. This government has continued its process of under-funding public services in order to pay off an imaginary debt crisis. Chris and I have visited almost all of our 45 worksites and have been asked on numerous occasions about what the announcements from the government mean. While we do not have any answers, we do know that changes are coming.
Now, more than ever, RETTA members standing as a collective and in solidarity with the 15000 members of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) is a necessity. When I used to say that “Manitoba was an island of sanity in a sea of stupid”, we are now swallowed up by that sea and RETTA members should be very, very concerned.
Last March, to our dismay, we witnessed the provincial government drop the class size provisions for K – Grade 3. In the spring of 2017, the provincial government passed (but did not proclaim and has yet to proclaim) Bill 28 to bypass collective bargaining on compensation issues and to freeze and limit teachers’ salaries and benefits for four years. The start of the current school year saw the provincial government implement cuts to French-language services. Unfortunately, 2017 was just the harbinger of the attacks to come.
The new year of 2018 began with even greater attacks on public education and MTS members. In February of 2018, the provincial government provided the lowest public schools’ funding announcement in decades and cut K – Grade 12 funding to less than the rate of inflation. In addition, the provincial government limited the amounts school boards could raise through taxation.
Along with the funding announcement, the provincial government declared a system of provincial bargaining for MTS members whereby, some or most, if not all, bargaining will be done at a central table. The government did not consult with the Society before announcing this profound change. As well, it must be noted that the Minister of Education and Training did not provide any details in his announcement as to the process nor the system of provincial bargaining, even though all 38 collective agreements expire in June.
The last announcement from the provincial government (at time of writing) was that the government would be reviewing the education system and this review would lead to the most profound changes in a generation. Once again, no consultation with the Society occurred prior to the announcement and no details as to the review or the process were shared.
I would suggest that MTS members need to think and act upon how challenges such as funding cuts, the elimination of class size provisions, proposed wage and benefit freezes, and an absence of consultation with teachers, etc., are going to impact them, their students, their colleagues and public education in this province.
Right now, as a collective, all RETTA members need to be engaged and informed. All members will also need to make a choice: if members and public education continue to come under attack, that choice will be whether to stand up and speak out, or to remain silent (remaining silent is a choice). “If you do not speak up when it matters, when would it matter that you speak?” Always remember that change can only happen when enough people speak up in the same voice. Members must be committed to the collective and our collective voice must be strong. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
Please sign-up for the MTS MyProfile, visit their and our website often and keep informed with what is happening.
There will be a Rally on May 25th at 4:30pm at the Manitoba Legislature. Please attend if you are able. As well, there is a variety of useful information about the attacks on education on the MTS website. Their “Updates on Critical Issues” is a valuable source for keeping informed. Please take the time to read over what is posted.
As we approach the end of the school year, I hope that things in your classrooms go well. These matters are important but there are strong members of your executive, both locally and provincially, who are on top of what is happening. What we ask of you is to get as involved as you are able. Now is the time, if there ever has been one, and we hope you’ll join us in this stand.