Sunday, March 10, 2019

Worker Rights and Organizing in Windsor, Ontario

The questions of the week are whether an employer can pay a full-time ESL teacher and a part-time teacher at a different rate of pay, whether the employer must reveal the wages paid, and where to turn for help with such issues.

You may know more about this than I do. Please use the comments section to educate me if you do. To find answers to these questions, I turned to the Internet and to my friend Paul Chislett of the Windsor Workers Education Centre on Ottawa Street in Windsor. If you happen to lunch at Taloola Cafe on a Sunday, you are likely to see him there with his wife Mireille Coral, founder of WWEC's sewing cooperative.

Going online, I found out that Ontario has a Pay Equity Act that covers pay equity between men and women doing the same work. But that wasn't what I was looking for. I was trying to find out whether employers are legally required to pay part-time teachers the same as full-time teachers if they are doing the same job.

Interestingly, between April 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, there was a law requiring equal pay for equal work regardless of employment status! It looks like Premier Doug Ford repealed that provision. However, this website says that one may still file a claim if one's employer did not follow the law while it was in effect. You may have back pay coming to you, if nothing else.

While researching, I discovered the Collective Agreements e-Library Portal, which is where you might look to find the pay scales for various positions at a given institution if your employer refuses to reveal what others are paid.

Paul Chislett was happy to meet with me to talk about steps teachers can take when employers break the law. You can just imagine how quickly the conversation turned to PBLA.

In most cases, Paul pointed out, everything depends on status. "How are you classed? Are you classed as an employee of the organization or as a contract worker? That is key," he said. Employees may fall under a collective agreement while contract workers do not.

Paul is not a lawyer and neither am I, so we cannot give legal advice. The Windsor Workers' Education Centre does, however, educate workers on how to organize as well as referring people for legal help. One such lawyer who has helped WWEC referrals in the past is David Deluzio, whose office is on Goyeau. If his caseload is too full, he can refer clients to another lawyer. Paul remembered one such case in which the worker had to travel out of town to meet with the lawyer, but the outcome was positive in the end.

"What do you think of asking someone from the Ministry of Labour to speak at one of our PD events?"

"That's a great idea," Paul said, adding "I've always had good experiences with employment standards officers." Paul said they have an office right here in town, though it tends to be understaffed.

"Of course, they can't advocate," Paul started.

"But they can inform, educate..." I said.


Mireille returned to the cafe after a walk around the block in gale-force winds to find that our conversation had turned to the broader topic of adult education and PBLA.

"It's not by accident that ESL and related activities are crippled," Paul said. "Because the next step [after empowering students] would be critiquing the system, and the ruling classes are not interested in letting that happen."

If you are interested in learning more about employee rights or cooperativism, you can follow @chislettshakeup on Twitter or drop into the Windsor Workers' Education Centre at 2034 Ottawa Street.


  1. Forming a union is a step in the right direction. If we had a national union of LINC instructors, these abuses would be shut down fast!

  2. Dear Windsor,

    Please organize into a union of ESL Instructors. There is a union at my employer, and without it the circumstances would be impossible. Every chance to take advantage of the employee can be challenged by the union. PBLA would be much more difficult without a union.

    Make sure your new union understands that fighting PBLA is its main purpose.

    It is Friday, the end of March Break, and I am already dreading going back to the PBLA grind. I am exhausted. I don't know how I will make it to summer.


  3. Sent from my iPad

    On Mar 15, 2019, at 3:39 PM, Claudie Graner wrote:

    Hi Kelly - I posted the follow under “my google account”.Just to see what happens.i did nit log into Blogger first and there was no thumbnail.

    Can you see it?


    Claudie here. Wishful thinking Norma. Unions have clear areas that they can “grieve” -e.g. health and safety, harrassment, non payment of sick leave, even (up to a point) unreasonable demands (e.g. employers do not make computers available - demand workers use their own computers)...- but the union cannot get involved with “right or wrong methodology” (critiquing the system). I belong to two unions - both have done what they can to get a leeeetle bit of remuneration for the unconscionable amount of unpaid hours and hours of work. But neither was prepared to challenge the change of job descriptions, the unpaid hours, the “quasi management” status of the Trainers. TDSB did agree that the Trainers were “mentors” and shouldn’t observe - unless invited by the instructor. I notice the description of Trainers” as “mentors” has disappeared from the Guidelines. Well, Trainers have morphed into “Team Leaders” - and they do have observation responsibilities - and can decide that an instructor “needs help” - is not doing PBLA properly...

    It was strange to go to a union meeting to talk about problems with PBLA and find Lead Trainers there - our so called sisters and brothers-in-solidarity. It was even stranger to hear the “Trainers” tell the meeting that there were nonnegotiables (e.g. number of artefacts - we had suggested fewer - and that they would contact the Ottawa Forum to set everyone straight. PBLA Champions. Nice. (Sarcasm) (First time I heard about the Ottawa Forum. Secret society. I wonder if individual instructors are named there???)

    No point looking to the TESLAssociations for support. CLB and PBLA ARE the progeny of TESLOntario (especially in the beginning) and of other TESL Associations’ former leaders and officials...

    A GOOD QUESTION THOUGH IS - WHERE IS THE NEWCOMER VOICE? There did use to be a learner association. If I were a learner and understood the issue - I would be spitting mad.

  4. Claudie, I agree that as long as unions are local, our power is limited. What I’d like to see is a NATIONAL organization of LINC instructors. Now that could carry a lot of power! All LINC instructors would be required to be members. Wages and work conditions would be negotiated between this organization and the funder. Some instructors are currently being paid THREE times as much as their colleagues who are doing exactly the same work. There needs equal pay for equal work. And most importantly, there needs to be a better and healthier balance of power between employers and employees. The big question is the how piece, of course.

    1. The "how" is easy. Contact your local teachers federation and ask them to mobilise your workforce. see here:

      Seriously, you need their support and voice, and they need your union dues. Win and win.

      There aren't any national teachers unions as far as I can see.

    2. I’m already a member of two unions and was instrumental in establishing one of them. So I know the process and really encourage everyone to explore becoming members of a union. How do we form a LINC NATIONAL union, that’s the question. With local unions, we are pitted against one another in the contract bidding system.

    3. I should add that public education is a provincial responsibility, as I’m sure you know, while immigration services are, of course, federal. Our funder is federal, so we need a federal organization to negotiate with them, not a provincial one. Or at the very least we need a provincial LINC teachers federation, not a workplace specific union. If your employer pays you less, the government will appreciate those cost-savings and may award you more classes. This suppresses everybody’s wages. Divided we can’t make much headway. But if we come together, then we can have a real voice and a seat at the table.



    Read the guidelines and hold every SPO to the fire!


    This is the time.

    Don't be taken advantage of.

    1. I think this Sunday's blog post will be about the changes. It's an important topic. --KM

    2. I am behind that idea. This is the time to make sure the improvements are either implemented immediately or effective for Fall 2019. Some people say that the new guidelines don't do enough but they really do have some good changes. The best is respect for teachers professional judgement.

      Everyone needs to find the time to read the document this weekend. Potential mentors and administrators need to remember to respect instructors. The frontline workers need respect and support and materials

  6. Well I suppose it's a step in the right direction,(?) but the reality is that there are several factors in many ESL programs (mine for example), that make PBLA simply an unsound and wasteful practice. a) many of our students are middle aged or old, women leaving home for the first time with babysitters and daycare and sick kids at home or visitors here for a short time, and really don't care about writing tests and changing benchmarks so all the time spent doing this is simply wasted on them, not to mention the time wasted organizing binders b) the binders themselves are cumbersome and a great waste of paper and material full of redundant stuff and in many cases students don't even take them with them when they leave (we are constantly collecting old binders in my school - dozens of them) which is shameful in this day and age c) there is no consistency from teacher to teacher in what constitutes a 'task' which makes a pass or fail more or less useless (my tasks for example are markedly different from my co-workers' tasks ) d) real life 'modules' can only be done for so long and when the actual focus of language learning is no longer 'language' students end up in higher levels lacking the ability to write sentences with no concept of grammar which is , after all, the basis of language - funny I feel like PBLA has embraced the opposite of what we should be doing. I think we should do some real life stuff for a few students who would like to learn about banking etc. but should mostly focus on fluency and using proper grammar and how to write well d) students are still held back by the need for 8 'artefacts' in all skill areas. If you have two full classes, as I do, the time required to create, deliver, mark and tabulate the tasks is unreasonable e) there is so much focus on test writing that many ESL programs have lost sight of what it means to teach ESL f) many ESL programs have continuous intake which means new students on a daily basis so no matter how good their language skills are, rather than a quick brush up on skills which is what many of the younger students need, they are forced to stay in their level until they finish 8 tasks in all skill areas and this simply cannot be done in a short amount of time so classes are jammed up, nowhere to go until everyone 'passes' (and pass - fail - test is not a good way to teach / learn English) and everyone feels discouraged. Morale is at an all time low. Finally, the people we are dealing with need compassion and kindness. They have lived difficult and stressful lives, and PBLA only adds to the stress. Oh and no more fun.

    1. Point C is interesting. YES, we are all different-staff and students included.

      It sounds as if you work at one of the SPOs that were trained by a leaders that were developed in a certain cohort. Please remember that the new 2019 guidelines have been created with abused staff in mind. Some SPOs have caused undue stress and workload because they acted as hostile and unkind leaders. The new guidelines need to be presented to administration, boards of directors or agency heads so that balance and respect can return to the workplace.

      Everyone, and I mean everyone, did the best that THEY could do for their learners before PBLA. If employers are concerned about their workforce, then they should implement better hiring practices for future program development. No agency should discipline, or discouraged an employee who has "struggles" implementing PBLA because it is clear in the new 2019 (and all past documents )n that PBLA implementation is a process in which we are working toward PBLA.

      Anyone who experiences anything else can now approach their local labour board. Do not work beyond your paid time. Offer the resources that are available to your students. Enjoy your job. Do what you can. IF anyone is harassing you at work, tell your supervisor and if it is your supervisor then contact the CCLB. I have been informed that we should please contact François Bélisle, Executive Director, at

      He wants to know if SPOs are still abusing people with PBLA. By the way, the CHANGE CYCLE has been removed as it was the document that encouraged the abuse. The labour board of Ontario advised that the inclusion of the Change Cycle document opened up the CCLB for charges. It would be good for any employer to understand that harassment and abuse are no longer going to be tolerated by labour boards, unions or boards of directors.

      The pertinent aforementioned documents are linked below. Enjoy your Saturday colleagues. Managers, make a cup of tea and read where you went wrong and where you need to improve. Prepare your apology and maybe hand in your resignation if you aren't willing to conform.

      Advised by legal counsel prior to writing this piece.

    2. Strange...The Change Cycle removal was not reported in the CCLB March newsletter – although that would seem a newsworthy item.
      It was not the Change Cycle itself that allowed the abuse. It was PEOPLE at IRCC, CCLB, Regional Coaches, Lead Trainers, Trainers, overzealous managers and administrators at SPOs and Boards that through explicit or complicit action perpetrated the abuse, humiliation, intimidation, demands for hours of unpaid work, forced implementation of an unproven, flawed experiment, forced shortchanging of the learners.

      Will there be a statement from IRCC or on the CCLB website acknowledging the monumental fail? (You only had one job...?) Will there be an acknowledgement of the damage? Taking the Change Cycle OFF the website is easy. Taking it OUT of the minds of those trained in it – not so easy. The psychological effects and beliefs will stay with those people. Just as the psychological effects of the abuse will stay with me and others. This is a serious question that everyone should be thinking about.

      Point C above. Of course. If you have 2,000 + teachers “implementing PBLA” EACH of their artefacts will be as individual/different as the person creating it. So with 2,000+ teachers x 32 “artefacts” you will have, what, a minimum of 2,000x32 = 64,000 different “Real World Task” Assessments (as if) and “Skill Using” artefacts for grading out there. Pity the learner who gets one that they “fail”. They could just as easily have gotten one that they passed only – but, sorry, wrong Level Four....

      With so many different interpretations, approaches, scoring systems, language ability, expert knowledge, quality, styles, design across Canada (heck, even in the same city, in the same SPO) ....WHERE ON EARTH DO YOU SEE A STANDARDISED PANCANADIAN SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE DELIVERY? Where do you see that you can say truthfully to a newcomer “You are going to be assessed in a true, valid, reliable, consistent, fair way”? Although the CCLB started off claiming PBLA was “Assessment for Learning” it was very quickly told by reliable researchers like Dr Janna Fox that PBLA assessments were not AFL: they are a series of SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS (TESTS)

      AFL is LOW stakes.
      PBLA (graded) summative tests (aka “artefacts”) collection is HIGH stakes. attention.

      I see people using the jargon of the CLBs in an IKEA “assembly required” fashion – and “copying templates” from the internet - so visually some of the “tests” look the same... – Competency area, indicators of ability, profiles of ability, suggested tasks, blah blah – but one look at the 57 varieties in the RWTAB shows you that there is no consistency, no reliability, no agreed standards, no fieldtested or inter rater agreement, no common interpretation between all 250+ (Add to all of this the CLBs have NEVER been validated by research).

      For many newcomers the prescriptive “artefact collection” procedure impacts their lives negatively. “Klodi. Please, please, change my benchmark. I need to apply for citizenship. I want to go to see my family. I need a passport”. I WAS TOLD BY A MANAGER THAT IT WILL TAKE THIS PERSON A YEAR OF NIGHT SCHOOL TO ACCUMULATE THE ARTEFACTS NEEDED. SO he can apply for Citizenship. Meanwhile he has been and is working as a mechanic for a very high end make of cars. Maybe he is fixing yours? For sure he has been paying tax

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    5. Great comments, Claudie on the unreliability and invalidity of the tests given to students in pbla. We have been told over and over again that pbla is based on reliability and validity. But with a background in testing, I've know all along that this was a complete fabrication!
      And on a side note, I found much of the basis for pbla to be actually almost offensive in intent. For example, our leads spent countless hours trying to force us to inflict continuous reflections on goals on our students, as if our students were mere children. I found this pounding on us to be extremely offensive-after all, how can one say to a student who has crawled through deserts, forests and over mountain ranges in the cover of darkness to escape and with the ever present risk of being shot in the process, that they don't have any 'good' goals? I had a student who did all this, and he certainly did not need to spend inordinate amounts of time examining and re-examining his goals. In fact, I don't think he needed to examine his goals at all. He was living his goals on a daily basis. How arrogant it is to treat our students like children!


  7. @ gerggo - yes PBLA - the Big Lie.

    MANY MANY proponents of PBLA know they are dishonestly presenting PBLA as a valid way of assessing a learner’s competency - and unethically (fraudulently?) forcing the protocol on unsuspecting newcomers.

    Tell me ONE reputable testing service (IELTS, TOEFL, CAEL) that has endorsed the CLBs as being valid and provided an equivalency chart of the “CLB competencies” with their “marks” or bands. (There are CCLB consultants and experts that have - but that does not count because, obviously, they are biased, not independent, not third party).

    There is no “equivalency” because the CLBs are NOT BASED ON VERIFIABLE RESEARCH, the so called “competencies” and the “profiles of ability” are NOT BASED ON EVIDENCE; are not universally accurate and true. The Canadian Language Benchmarks are the fabrication, the concoction of a few consultants and former
    administrators and they were designed for a purely political agenda not a pedagogical purpose. And those of us who know them intimately know how flawed and problematic they are.

    A SIDE ISSUE: The CELPIP and the IELTS General tests.
    CELPIP was commissioned by the Canadian Government for the purpose of USING THE CLBs for a test that would measure newcomers “English language” competency. As it is based on the CLBs it has no application or use beyond the bureaucratic needs of the Canadian Government (for citizenship application.) And - because the CLBs are flawed - it is flawed.
    Another expensive alternative to “attending LINC/ESL classes” and “doing” PBLA to obtain “CLB L4, S4” is the IELTS General. (BUT it’s a nice income for some who coach individual newcomers.)

    PBLA (the Big Joke - except it isn’t) has the incomprehensible premise that 2,000 plus teachers of varying degrees of ability, experience skills and competencies “creating” “32” inexpert assessments (tests) using
    their 2,000+ individual interpretations of alignment to the (inaccurate,
    unwieldy) CLBs will come up with a standardised system and model of language assessment that is reliable, consistent, valid, practical, real, fair.

    Is PBLA an assessment model based on Canadian values of honesty, equity, fair play, no discrimination for newcomers? Methinks not.

    Thank you gerggo for the many savvy comments you made. You join many serious, responsible, sane ESLers who have been levelling the same criticisms for four (five!) years. Please keep speaking out. You are not alone. We are right (I take no pleasure in saying that.) The approach to assessing newcomers’ English competency needs to be drastically reformed.

    Sent from my iPad

  8. Thank you Claudie! I always enjoy your posts. And you are spot on in talking about CELPIP compared to IELTS. IELTS is not perfect, but it is light years better than the CELPIP or CAEL. The only places that recognize these latter tests are a few government institutions. Though the IELTS is expensive, it is far superior in terms of training and monitoring of examiners, and they make serious efforts to create reliable and valid tests of ability, unlike anything connected to the CLBs or PBLA, which are a joke.


Thank you for participating in this forum. Anonymous commenting is available, but is not intended to shield those taking pot shots at those of us challenging PBLA. If you are here to do that, please use your name.