For almost 12 years, I worked as an education lawyer. During this period, the proposal for a professional order for teachers constantly resurfaced. This phenomenon is specific to Quebec where, unlike the rest of the Western world, professional orders abound (46 orders currently exist).
Once again, odious stories mark the news and many commentators and columnists call for the creation of a professional order in education, even though one can question the existence of such archaisms inherited from corporations. medieval.
In fact, programs such as JE and La facture periodically shed light on the fact that existing professional orders, the Barreau du Québec or the Collège des médecins for example, often protect their members more than the public. Let us take as an illustration these decades of blocking exercised by the College of Physicians against the arrival of specialized nurse practitioners or the participation of the Order of Nurses of Quebec in the deterioration of our health system by claiming that compulsory overtime is a direct consequence of ethical obligations.
In fact, a professional order is based on the idea that only the members of a profession can determine the standards to be followed to protect the public, because expertise in the field would be necessary to understand the issues. From the outset, we can obviously see that this premise does not square with the problem of incompetence and violence reported in the media: do you need to be a teacher to know that sexual assault and violence are criminal? ? Do you need to be a teacher to know that no one learns through violence and punishment?
This is a myth for several reasons. In fact, no collective agreement prevents someone from being fired. On the contrary, even unionized employees of central trade unions can be dismissed. Indeed, all collective agreements include provisions that give in a few lines the recipe for getting rid of a person who is incompetent or who commits serious faults such as those described.
In general, in the event of violent behavior or obvious and serious misconduct, dismissal can be immediate. In terms of competence, the only prior actions required of management are to clearly communicate their expectations to the person concerned, that is to provide feedback, and to give reasonable time and resources to enable the person to achieve the expectations. This often works to the benefit of both employee and employer. Is it a cumbersome and complex procedure to give “the chance to the runner”?
In fact, with rare exceptions, a union cannot prevent the application of an employer’s decision. He can only react after the fact and challenge the decision through a grievance that will be heard by an arbitrator months or years later. During this time, the person remains dismissed and, according to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, will remain so after the arbitration decision in 60% of cases. This dismissal will be replaced by a long suspension counted in months or years in an additional 20%.
Concretely, when my ex-colleagues and I had to intervene in cases of incompetence, we always had to get management to understand that their problem was broader than they thought. In fact, if a unionized employee is incompetent, it is because a human resources person is too, because he was unable to identify the problem and follow the simple black-and-white written procedure in the collective agreements, laws or arbitration decisions that she studied at university.
But what are the tools of a professional order? Exactly the same as those of the managements: it can punish for willful misconduct, it can impose criteria for accessing the profession (which the law on education already does) and oblige continuing education (which the managements already do during pedagogical days). Moreover, the disciplinary intervention of the professional orders is potentially less effective, because the professional generally retains the right to continue his practice during the proceedings. Finally, professional orders also participate in relieving their members of their responsibilities through liability insurance plans that protect them from the financial consequences of their faults.
To conclude, we must ask ourselves what negative consequences are likely to arise from the creation of an order. The most obvious is that this will make the profession less attractive by imposing, among other things, a reduction in salary through compulsory dues: cocktail parties for board meetings and conventions held on cruises cost me thousands of dollars annually when I was member of the Bar. In short, in these times of labor shortage, such a definite negative impact seems to outweigh the hypothetical gains that could result from the creation of such an organization.