As Naomi Klein outlines in her book Shock Doctrine, some governments use a crisis to put forward their agenda, not necessarily to the benefit of anyone but themselves. If a crisis does not exist or is not significant enough, propaganda or a creative presentations of facts can help push things in the right direction.
In Ontario we find ourselves in an apparent “crisis” situation regarding the education sector and the negotiations with the government. There is an economic climate that is in need of serious consideration by both sides, as it may be a crisis in the making. Yet in the traditional pattern of negotiations, we are still in the early days. During the last set of contract talks in 2008, many negotiations were not completed for months after the expiration of the previous contracts (the present contracts expire August 31).
For reasons that I can only speculate about, this summer the Ontario government is regularly peppering the public with alarming sound bites about an impending labour crisis and how the government will solve (legislate) the problem and save our children and their education. They are playing somewhat fast and loose with information. The unions have kept a lower profile and therefore both sides of the story are not out for the public to consider.
The crisis creation began small. A slow burn really. Grumblings in the media last spring, leaked documents or some such thing. The government was going to take a hard line….wage freezes, decreases in sick time allocations…Many people thought, ok, they come out tough and then look generous when they start conceding certain points. There were others, myself included, who got a sense of unease. I sensed that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Sadly, there are indications that the crisis creation is working, as some unions have accepted new contracts that undermine key rights that are unique and important in the field of education and allow staff to do what really is our job: to educate students.
We presently are on a slippery slope and education workers – teachers and others – are being cast as the villains and creators of the crisis. The reaction of some unions has been to jump on board the train driven by the Minister of Education and the Ontario government’s crisis creation team.
Crisis? What crisis? Sadly it’s here.