Letter: The BCTF vs. the B.C. government

To the editor;

The longer I observe the conflict between BCTF and BC government the more it reminds me of another hot conflict taking place right now. Just about half way around the world the Ukrainian government is battling the pro-Russian separatist forces in the east of the country.

While on paper the Ukrainian government is undertaking a legitimate battle against armed insurgents, it lacks the ability to ultimately prevail in this conflict due to at least two reasons: the local support for separatists and money.

Although constantly denied from Kiev, the separatists do have a considerable level of local support and have predominantly drawn into their ranks local citizens, which means that protracted warfare is guaranteed to effect ever more local citizens making the alienation of local population from Kiev even deeper. If one factors in the financial and logistical support alleged to be received by the separatists from Moscow, then the ongoing army offensive against them can really mean an unending conflict in which Ukraine can hardly emerge a winner as Vladimir Putin's pockets are stuffed with cash. To save the situation from becoming a disaster, the Ukrainian government needs to negotiate with Moscow on a cooperative basis that would inevitably involve a need to compromise.

And here we come back to the current position of the BCTF, which on the heels of the decision of the BC labour board to legitimize the arbitrary 10 per cent salary cut by the government, has become a proposition much less certain that calls for more flexibility and less militancy.

To understand what needs to happen one has to separately consider the questions of money and strategy, long and short-term. On the money front the current BCTF position differs by approximately 2 per cent per annum from the governmental offer if one breaks down the competing proposals.

To expect that the government would move upwards all the way to cover the gap is a fantasy, to expect them to meet you half-way is a probability. So, 1 per cent per year, let's say over five years the current gap would constitute roughly 5 per cent .

Good. Now the rotating strikes under way are expected to cost an average teacher at least 1.5 per cent of their annual salary. Add another 1 per cent, which is due to docking the teachers pay for the month of June at a minimum. Now the difference stands at 2.5 per cent over five years.

And now the BCTF is attempting to call an all-out strike? This is insanity. If the strike lasts just one week then all potential salary gains to an average teacher would be completely erased. One day longer and the government is laughing all the way to the bank as by accepting the middle of the deal, the teachers would be worse off compared to the current offer from B.C. government.

Some say the strike is about the education system in general, thus expecting much public support from the parents. They are correct ? In part. Yes, parents want a better quality of education, but they also require daycare which the school system in essence is. Considering the immediate financial burdens of the latter it would be fair to say that daycare wins hands down. And if so, then by striking teachers are also liable to harm their relationships with their own support constituency.

Remember, the school system is not a commercial operation in which each hour of the strike has significant consequences for both parties in conflict. This is a public service where one of the parties, unfortunately perhaps, has an unbeatable strategic advantage over another. Remember, the longer goes on the strike the more money B.C. government SAVES, not loses.

Finally, the issue of class sizes and composition should be handled separately from the wage negotiations by the BCTF lest they end up in a complete quagmire. The government, cynically, has refused time and again to recognize court rulings in favour of the BCTF by escalating the matter all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Clearly expecting their cooperation prior to the denouement of this process is foolish. Again, they have an upper hand for now, and it is the time BCTF recognize it and hold its fire for another day. In other words, choose your battles, you can't win them all.

Alex Posoukh,


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