Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

The labour geographies of education: The centralization of governance and collective bargaining in Ontario, Canada

Document type Article
Author Sweeney, Brendan
Journal Geoforum
Volume 44
Date 2013
ISSN 0016-7185
Pages 120-128


Labour geography has yet to pay full attention to the experiences of public sector workers and their employer (the state). This article addresses this lacuna and provides some insight into the labour geographies of public sector workers through an empirical analysis of the centralization of governance, employment relations, and collective bargaining in Ontario, Canada’s publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools. This case demonstrates how one particular group of public sector workers – teachers – and their unions located and exercised agency in the arenas of politics and collective bargaining through a rescaling of their activities from the local to the provincial level. The paper also argues that the rescaling of politics and collective bargaining is problematic. Questions remain regarding whether or not Ontario’s teachers were able to increase their aggregate bargaining power through centralization or merely transferred agency and authority from one scale to another. Moreover, the paper engages with the fast-developing geographies of education literature, and is consistent with an outward-looking approach that links education to wider political and economic processes. In so doing, it extends the scope of the geographies of education to the employees of publicly-funded schools and their administrative bodies, and suggests value a theoretically- and empirically-informed dialogue between geographers interested in education and those interested in labour.