Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF)

News & Views

D34 Builds solidarity with other unions

D34 Builds solidarity with other unions

It's good to connect with other locals

In May 2015, around 25 members of the teaching and administrative staff at the Kaplan International ESL school based in downtown Toronto, commenced strike action after contract negotiations came to a stalemate. Kaplan management wanted to use a clause to lay off workers based on an internal 'performance matrix'.

The teachers, members of Unifor Local 40, told us that the “matrix” was used randomly and unpredictably to justify the firing of experienced and highly-skilled teachers, potentially in favour of shorter-term contract workers with similar student survey results. The concern was that permanent work was slowly being converted to precarious work by the selective process.

“The moment we heard about this, a group of us went down to join the picket line in solidarity,” explained Mark Dallas (OSSTF D34-ILSC Vice President at the time), “Kaplan may be a competitor of ILSC, but when it comes to job security in private language schools, we're all in the same boat. One company watches another to see what austerity measures can be made to keep up (e.g. increasing class-size caps, greater focus on dubious student-evaluated performance surveys). If something like this 'performance matrix' is allowed to be passed, we'll all be cast adrift!”

“It was the right thing to do,” said one picketer, “Management started laying teachers off randomly and causing no end of turmoil. Our union reps told them, ‘You can’t do this to people,’ but they carried on regardless, not knowing the anger it would cause.”

During the four grueling weeks of the strike, members from several unions (including CUPE) joined the line in solidarity. Representatives of OSSTF D34-ILSC went down several times to help Unifor 40 members bang the drum outside their offices at 55 York Street.

One Friday, two D34 members, also known as The Komraidz, showed up with a guitar and song booklets and hosted a protest singalong to raise their spirits.

“If [ILSC teachers] ever find [them]selves in the same situation,” declared one Kaplan teacher, “you can count on us to be there to return the favour.”

After almost a month of job action, their new collective agreement, which includes annual wage increases, vacation enhancement and key improvements to language on job security, was ratified with an overwhelming majority on June 4. And not only that: the 'performance matrix' is no more.

   
OSSTF members Alexander Brown (D34-ILSC President at the time) and Guy Fogel (2nd and 3rd from left)
standing alongside striking Unifor 40 members outside Kaplan Toronto