Work. Rights. Responsibilities

I was listening to CKNW today. The host was talking about some plans in some districts for teachers to remove services for coaching, extra-curricular activities and the like.

He then went on the required rant about “if this were about the kids, then why are they punishing the kids”

I turned off the radio.

Teachers are workers. Union or not, an employee has rights, we all have rights, including the right to withdraw our services in protest at our employer. Withdrawing services, be it quitting, or protesting en-masse is simply the culmination of longterm, often hidden, internal strife and protest.

The difference with teachers, and all public sector workers, is that they work for the public good as well as their own.

There is pride in serving others and in being part of a system, no matter how convoluted and bureaucratic, that you know we all need and that should, at its core, work for the betterment of all. It is supposed to be above political stripe or station. We work for the citizens of a town, City, Province or country that we live in.

However, there is another side to that coin.

As public servants, their job, even though it is a-political, their experience, their effect, is directly connected to the party in power and the policies they bring to bear. The worker and the public share control of the services through their connection to government and so they also share responsibilities.

So when teachers start protesting against what they see their employer (the government) doing to their working conditions and thus the services they provide, I submit that it is up to the public, and especially the Media, to investigate. If they find something wrong as well, then they must speak out as well and pressure the government and hold it to account.

We all have a responsibility, as citizens, to protect the services that we claim to value, we should not, we cannot, leave it solely to workers to protect because we have seen governments legislate their decision.

In the end, public service workers are just voters, and it takes a majority of voters to truly demand change and improvement.