BC Teachers: fighting for Negotiation

A short post on the current strike by BC Teachers.

Last week they were ruled to be in contempt of court… however, the court was very light on their punishment of the union. They only froze the assets of the BC Teachers Federation… thu denying teachers their $50 a day strike pay. Now when you go from a $1200-$2000 bi-weekly paycheque… to $50 a day… most people will tell you that you might as well get nothing anyway, so it is clear that the court was lenient and has sent a message directly to the BC Government.

That message being: All parties in a contract are to be granted the right to a process of *negotiation*. The Government can not be allowed to use its’ priviledged position as legislator to affect the way it negotiates contracts with its’ workers.

How convenient it is now, to see the BC Government saying to teachers that they always wanted to negotiate… but can’t now because of the illegal strike. Such arrogance! Gordon Campbell and his party know full well that the ball is in their court. It is their turn to make a move. And the only move they can make is to get back to the negotiating table.

If the Government thinks that public opinion will soon turn against the teachers, I think they are grossly miscalculating. I have yet to meet someone not in support of the teachers. Even the DJs on the popular CFOX radio station I listen to are actively supporting the teachers. The public is behind their teachers. They understand what is right and wrong. They have seen what has happened to our public schools since the [anti-]Liberals took office.

Tomorrow there will be a Day of Protest at the Victoria legislature. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. However, I will be there in spirit, as will many other British Columbians.

Please, if you can… go to the Protest tomorrow. Support our teachers right to fight for better classroom conditions for our students! Support our teachers right to fight for more librarians and more special needs resources for our children! But most of all.. support our teachers right to fight for fair bargaining! Say no to “legislated” settlements. These settlements are not solutions.. they are part of the problem and only a cowardly government would use them.

6 thoughts on “BC Teachers: fighting for Negotiation”

  1. I tried to read your original post on this topic (which I confess I didn’t pay much attention to since it’s importance is local and I’m not at all informed on the merits of either side) so I could get a better feel for the issues under contention but couldn’t find it, alas.

    So the teachers are striking over more librarians, special needs considerations and fair bargaining issues ? If this goes on for a while, what about the children not attending school for a serious length of time? It seems to me that considering the required professionalism inherent in a good educational system that a strike would be as an absolute last resort and only for critical deficiencies in an educational system. Do you think that my standard is met in this situation?

    In my entire life (a considerable number of years) I’ve never seen a teachers strike in the US. The standards and the funding are decided upon by the legislature and the local school boards who stand for re-election every few years. The State (not Federal) legislature hands out the funds but each local district establishes it’s tax levy (based on property values mostly). The local voters in the district approve any special “bond” issues (such as building new schools, stadiums, improvements to existing buildings) by referendum. The salaries
    are standardized (I think) by the legislatures. Most issues are decided upon by the local school board. In our system there are no strikes.

    Teachers are a very strong lobby in the US – the National Education Association is one of the strongest forces when it comes to political influence in the entire country. When the NEA speaks, others listen.

  2. Ya.. the teachers here have been working without a contract (ie.. their old contract expired) for I believe almost 2 years. The Government is the ultimate employer and directs what their representatives have to say to the teachers. They only started seriously negotiating a contract early last summer after the most recent election.

    I assure you that this is an absolute last resort and that your standard is more than met. It’s something that has been on the horizon for a very long time. The BC Government has cut funding for education so drastically that school districts have consolidated schools and removed many services. There was also specific funding for special needs children that was cut and never returned even though now BC is running a big Surplus. Librarians and libraries in general have been largely ignored and it’s really starting to show. ALso extra curricular activities which once enjoyed at least some funding from government are now totally funded by parents and/or corporate sponsors (if schools are lucky enough to attract one)… so it’s affecting the access of low income students to many many activities.

    The Government then “downloaded” the responsibility for doling out resources for programs to school districts thus absolving their accountability on the matter. What’s interesting is that many school districts across BC have indicated their support for the teachers strike and many more are simply silent. I have yet to hear of one that supports the government.

    While the deficiencies might not be “critical”, indeed the education system still functions… these deficiencies are a very slippery slope.

    Canada doesn’t have a “lobby” quite like America.. and Educational matters are a totally provincial jurisdiction.. the “lobby” in effect is the Union movement and other large groups such as the Business Council of BC (BCBC) and others.

    Strikes are no unusual in BC.. we use them quite regularly, and on the whole I’m sure Canada sees far more strikes than the US because of its’ strong social movement and the continued strength of national and provincial Unions in large business and government.

    At this point students have missed 8 days of classes… it’s hardly a drop in the bucket and it would be well worth it if it meant improved conditions for them in the future. If the strike doesn’t work.. well, there is nothing else for teachers to do.. and there is nothing else that will improve the conditions for students except perhaps a change in government (which is 5 years away).

  3. Well, thanks for the clarification. We have lots of strikes here as well but never in the professional sector like teaching, nursing, etc although from time to time some have been threatened. Here it’s against the law for government workers to strike as I recall at least here in Iowa. Remember when Reagan fired all the striking air traffic controllers in 1981? They illegally struck and he made an example of them.

    Looking at the big picture as far as where resources get spent, sometimes the promise of the big governement will take care of all our needs movement runs out of funds. But if they’ve got a surplus then for shame. You must take care of your educational system. After all your (meaning all of us) children are your future and they deserve the best education a nation can afford. To me that is a basic service that must not be diluted when resources are being allocated. So based on what you are telling me, I’m favoring the teachers too.

  4. Ya you got it Jane. Tightening of belts is one thing.. but when times are good, the most important parts of society must be taken care of properly, and I can think of no other than the education system.

    The media likes to focus on the fact that Teachers are also looking to get 15% raises over the life of their new contract… setting aside the fact that this barely covers the rate of inflation since the last time Teachers got a raise… I think if you told teachers they had to settle with 0% BUT all that extra money went to programs and classroom size reductions instead, they’d be more than willing to accept that.

    It comes down to negotiation.. which the government has refused to do until now when the teachers took action.

    “Remember when Reagan fired all the striking air traffic controllers in 1981? They illegally struck and he made an example of them.”

    Yes, and the BC government has been trying to pull that trick on a number of government workers over the past few years.. the thing about BC is it’s a VERY union-heavy place. We’re not afraid to strike.. and we’re not afraid to defy the governments bidding if we don’t feel its’ correct. πŸ™‚

    It’s funny.. Gordon Campbell, BC Premier… said today that teachers were in “flagrant contempt” of the courts decision.

    It’s not his place to say that.. it’s the Courts place… so he can shove it. πŸ™‚

  5. As far as teachers’ pay goes, I wouldn’t be a teacher for twice what they are paid. I believe they (the good teachers) are woefully underpaid at least in the US. It’s a scandal IMO. It is very hard work and not really appreciated by a large segment of our society. I can’t believe how much guff parents give the schools over disciplinary issues. I think most teachers are very special people, like nurses. They have to love it or they wouldn’t last two years. πŸ™ We simply need the best people to entrust our children’s intellectual development to.

    In my state (Iowa) our kids rank number one iin the nation for SAT scores (which is standardized testing done in grade 12, I believe) and over all we have one of the highest literacy rates in the country. Used to be number one but not sure if it’s still ranked that high. So we value education here but still our teachers are underpaid and voters routinely vote against bond issues for school improvements. We entrust our future to them. They deserve to be adequately compensated. Hopefully BC has quality teachers too. So they are deserving of a good income.

    I just read your link re the contempt remark. Yes, you Canucks are right scrappy. Better channel some of that scrappiness into your hocky events coming up. πŸ™‚

  6. Absolutely, all teachers deserve great pay.. as far as I’m concerned, if it means they will produce students are well prepared and well balanced for life than they should be payed as well as doctors because they could easily save a life and save every life connected to every student. They have a lot of responsibility.

    The government didn’t show any sign of backing down today though. I hope the teachers can hang tough. I want them to succeed, but not at the expense of their mortgages/rentcheques/life savings..

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