Ruling on teachers’ pay cut is unfair
An open letter to the people of Richmond,
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with the recent Labour Relations Board ruling condoning the government’s 10% pay cut for teachers.
People don’t seem to understand that the 10% pay cut doesn’t apply only to strike days-- it applies to days when we are working as well. In essence, the government is punishing teachers for the mere thought of striking, rather like a futuristic authoritarian regime that punishes people for crimes they might potentially commit in the future.
I am a music teacher and regularly perform concerts with my choir and bands-- usually at least one per month and often two. These concerts involve transporting 150 music students and all of their ancillary equipment to wherever we are performing, setting it up, doing the show, and transporting them all back. When my concerts are during the school day, they are actually more work, because I have to plan for classes left behind. When they are at night, I miss time with my own family. Concerts are not part of my job per se, but I do them because music is a performing art and I believe that my students need to have the experience of sharing their music with others. After organizing and performing several concerts with my groups in May, in addition to a full teaching load, I was rewarded for my efforts with a $300 pay cut by my employer, the government. I do not make $300 a day... I was penalized 10% for every day of rotating strikes in the province, even the days that I worked. For a teacher with a young family, $300 is a lot of money to lose, and I stand to lose more if the labour action continues.
I believe that such a penalty is undemocratic, and illegal, regardless of what the LRB has to say about it. It is an absolute distortion of the law. Nurses, sanitation workers, police and various other unionized groups have never been penalized in such a manner. What makes teachers deserving of such persecution?
The government’s argument is that since they have locked me out, I am not performing some of my duties and should be penalized for work I am not doing. What work is it exactly that I am not doing anyway, since my after school and nighttime work was volunteering? By their own argument, the government is assigning a monetary value to the work I previously did of my own free will, and I should not only not be penalized—I should be paid 10% back pay for the past 15 years of after-school and lunch-time teaching which I apparently did for free when I should have been getting paid for it!
Getting the merits of my work done freely from the heart judged by a bunch of lawyers who bill by the hour is really more than I can stomach. It’s quite sickening, to be blunt. I’m sure that most teachers feel exactly the same. I didn’t get into this profession for the money, but no one likes to see their work de-valued. This government has a lot to answer for-- they have repeatedly flouted the law and gotten away with it, and the public’s lack of concern about their abuse of power has emboldened them. As a teacher, I find that repugnant. It bothers me to think that the people I live with condone such a government. It bothers me that my government is a schoolyard bully. You should be out there in the streets, like I am, calling them on it.
Richmond Music Teacher