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We won! I think

A vacant teacher's desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom is pictured at Magee Secondary school in Vancouver. Photo by Jonathan Hayward, CP

A vacant teacher’s desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom is pictured at Magee Secondary school in Vancouver. Photo by Jonathan Hayward, CP

The government has won the teacher strike.

I use the word “won” advisedly because this is an ongoing struggle which is a long way from over. What they have won is this particular battle.

Why do I say this?

The teachers are now backed into a corner. There is no face-saving way out. The government has simply said they will not budge and they will not consent to any sort of arbitration.

This leaves only one road out. Legislation which will come ere long.

The government has not shown any great skill in this debate – rather the opposite. It has been ham-handed and about as delicate as a warthog in heat. There have been no advances in the struggle because of any concessions made by the government and in fact the parties are worse off now than when the whole matter started. This is not to absolve the BCTF of all responsibility for matters. They have treated this dispute, in part at least, as a political matter and that’s not helped.

We are really, as I say, back where we started meaning the mid 70’s when the BCTF changed from being a professional society into a trade union. This meant that the negotiations between the parties suddenly became subject to the Labour Relations Act as if it were any other industrial dispute. This is not, however an industrial dispute like all of the others but one that involves the education of the province’s future. Mind you, this latter fact has been played to a fare-the-well by the teachers who bray this sentimental argument about of little children every available opportunity. Nevertheless, it happens to be true.

Having said all of that, there’s no question that the latter part of this dispute with much more to come, has been provoked by the government starting with Gordon Campbell back after he came to power in 2001 and fortified by his then education Minister Christy Clark. It has become a vendetta – a power struggle.

As mentioned in an article here recently by me, the government has been in a horrid conflict of interest position from the start. They are, on the one hand, one of the parties to a very large labour dispute and will naturally want to behave as employers do under those circumstances. On the other hand they are trustees for the rights of the people to a decent education for their children and must answer politically for their actions.

Again as I have said in the past, this cries out for a new form of negotiation to take place. There must be some sort of an organization to do the governments negotiating for them which acts as if it were any other employer needing to go back to it shareholders for approval yet stands at arm’s length from the government.

For the government to continue on its “on the one hand, on the other hand,” road is disastrous. When they represent the public of British Columbia they represent teachers every bit as much as they represent anyone else. At the same time there is a hostile relationship with those very same teachers.

I don’t know what the answer is. I do know, however, that if this government is going to behave in the slightest way like responsible statesmen they will have to come up with a solution to this problem. This surely cannot be beyond the means of intelligent people to develop.

It not only involves teachers, of course – there are others for whom the government is an actual employer, in the sense that they pay the wages, and such a procedure could apply to those negotiations as well.

This has all gone on long enough. Our children are indeed hostage to a system which simply does not work.

That must change.

8 Responses to “We won! I think”

  1. Rudy Haugeneder says:

    Since males and females often think differently on the same social and economic issues, what is the gender breakdown for teachers, and does that have any impact on what teachers want and the labor dispute. Similarly, is there a gender difference when it comes to public support and opposition to the strike.

  2. Gavin Bamber says:

    The BCTF is in an even greater conflict of interest. Its mandate is to represent the teachers, fighting tooth and nail for them even when those interests conflict with the best interests of the students. For example, the generous signing bonus for teachers… an amount that teachers can do without and would be better spent paying for more non-BCTF special needs assistants.

    The education system would be better served by a decision-making panel composed of a government representative, a teacher rep., a parent rep., et. al. so that no one side has a monopoly of power.

  3. John says:

    The problem is the government’s posturing, motive and bad faith.

    Let’s start there.

    Stop the attempt to smash the BCTF and start bargaining in good faith.

    Then bargain hard.

    Then, maybe Vince Ready could do something constructive.

    Just saying NO all the time is not bargaining.

    But then, nobody has accused the Liberals of wanting to bargain.

  4. "Greedy" Teacher says:

    I can do without a $5000 signing bonus? I don’t think so. Teachers got class composition / size in the pre-Liberal days in return for sacrificing wage demands. The Liberals scrapped it, so I’m supposed to bargain for the same working conditions again at the expense of a wage increase / bonus? Sorry, but I have to get some “take-home” out of it this time.

    For putting up with this toxic government, their arbitrary 10% reduction in wages, their bleeding the system dry requiring millions of dollars to be fundraised by teachers every year to keep school programs running, for putting up with a media campaign / website costing over $300,000 being created solely to discredit teachers, I’m not supposed to want a bonus? You can call it a gratuity for being forced to protect my charter rights against the tyranny of a government who has abdicated its responsibility to look out for its own citizens err….. I guess we’re all only taxpayers now. Call it payback. I don’t really a give a shit.

    More EA’s are only a bandaid solution.

  5. Cocoabean says:

    The present system is ludicrously dysfunctional, a legacy of European trade unionism and their ‘class’-based view of the world.

    Perhaps we should see what teachers’ salaries would amount to in a free – and ‘fair’ – market.

    There are thousands of well-educated, qualified people out there who would love a teaching job, even if no longer government-protected…contracts should be negotiated by school boards and individual job applicants one-on-one, teacher-by-teacher and for set contract periods with the possibility of renewal.

  6. Marilyn Rombough says:

    I find it very disturbing that people appear to take so lightly a governments complete disregard for our Charter of Rights & Freedoms. This Liberal Government has twice been found guilty of doing so in respect to the teachers and until it is ruled otherwise by the Court of Appeal, in my eyes they remain guilty. Tomorrow it may be my rights, next it may be yours.
    This Liberal Government has continually tried to defame our teachers; the Premier of the Province recently calling them “greedy” and making jokes at their expense at a function in Kelowna, outright lying, telling the public, teachers have asked for unlimited “massages” etc. For heavens sake, these are the Educators of our children & our grandchildren; people to whom we have entrusted our “future”. They and their profession demand respect.
    This dispute and lack of any apparent desire on the Governments part to negotiate a fair deal with the BCTF has all the appearances of a personal vendetta by Christy Clark but I believe it goes beyond that. The consistent underfunding of public education since 2002, coupled with increased funding to independent schools, and new Education plans which favor technology based learning with fewer teacher supports leaves me wondering if we aren’t being directed to a “for profit”, two tiered educational system such as we have in the U.S. And that to me is really scary.

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