This letter is at least in part in response to Margaret E. Fraser’s letter. The gist of her letter indicates that she has it all figured out: she has many years of experience as a teacher, she knows what teachers should have, the work and stance of the BCTF should prevail and she puts her fate in its hands, knowing that the BCTF will always do right by her. She stresses many times that she does not need to be told anything by anybody else.
On the contrary, I beg to differ. I believe she needs to be told quite a few things, if she will allow me to use such an assertive verb.
First, there are about 41,000 public school teachers in B.C., or almost one per cent of the population. The government, which you evidently loathe so much, is also responsible for the other 99 per cent of the population, the vast majority of whom could never hope to get anywhere close to the wages, benefits, pension rights etc. that teachers take for granted.
Would you agree that this 99 per cent which includes working people at all income levels, unemployed, sick, seniors, children, etc. also deserve consideration, time, money etc. from government?
While you are at it, perhaps send a thought to the premier of this province. She is a youngish woman, single mother, trying her best to govern a divergent province. She knows, and you know, that you can never please everybody all the time. Perhaps you can spare her, and her colleagues, a kinder thought.
Next, bear in mind that teachers are paid by the taxpayers, that is by the government. Remember: governments have no money.
Governments have to raise money in one of two ways: by demanding taxes from tax-weary individuals, companies or other taxpaying organizations, or by borrowing. If they borrow, it adds to our provincial debt, which must be serviced every year.
When I was a young man in this province, we had a premier by the name of WAC Bennett. He was insistent on paying off our provincial debt, which he did. Today, our debt is huge, I believe in the vicinity of $65-70 billion, and growing.
It makes sense to borrow, if you are building, say a highway, or some productive facility which will generate money, taxes etc. over many years. It does not make sense to borrow money to pay current expenses that re-occur all the time, such as wages and benefits. That way, you can never get out of debt. In your family setting, you would never borrow money to feed your current expenses. If you do, you are in serious financial trouble.
Our government has said that meeting the demands of the teachers will eliminate the chance for a small budgetary surplus this year, and put us back very close to, or into a deficit. I believe 99 per cent of the people in B.C. do not want to get into a deficit.
Next, you lament the disrespect you imply teachers have experienced in the last 12 years. I am sure you will agree that respect must be earned through attitudes and actions. Teachers have ignored laws passed by the provincial government, and have engaged in a number of actions that have far from benefited those they claim to do it for, namely the children.
I know many excellent teachers, and consider many of them friends, but would suggest that your organization has worked hard to earn the disrespect from the public, as you describe. You may claim all you like that you are doing this for the children, but the moment the union calls for action, you are a well indoctrinated force for whatever aims the BCTF dictates.
Have you tried to see this from the vantage point of the young children, or their parents? I believe you are misusing the valuable relationships that most of you have spent years building up, with the children and the parents.
Many parents dare not speak out against things they disagree with, for fear of any consequences to their children’s marks. This is what happens when one partner is deemed to use bully tactics.
This brings me to your organization, the BCTF. I am hard pressed to think of even once that the BCTF has got along with a provincial government in the almost six decades I have lived in B.C. I know what you will say: it is the government’s fault.
I know you will say that, because Jim Iker says so every time he gets a chance. It is the fault of the people who try to represent the 99 per cent. Reminds me of the story of Johnny who is in basic military training, and writes home to mom that everything is going well, but when they are out marching all the other 39 fellows in his platoon are out of step with him.
If the BCTF would show a little more maturity in its approach to negotiations with the government, decide to sit down and participate as a responsible partner in the important talks of how to distribute society’s gains in a manner that is fair, not only to teachers, but to everybody else too, instead of “stand and fight”, then perhaps you would also regain the respect and trust that you say are gone.
You say you want a fair settlement. What seems fair to you, may seem extravagant to thousands of others who cannot hope to share in the same gains. Do not be surprised if many of those want the government to hold its line. Look around you. Look at your community, your friends. You may realize that you are very fortunate, with the wages, the benefits and the pensions that you get. Praise your lucky stars. Be happy.
Bjorn W. Meyer