Somewhere in the ongoing contract battle between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the B.C. Liberal government, doing what is best for our children/students got lost in the rhetoric over contract costs.
Both sides are blaming each other for the escalated strike because of unrealistic bargaining.
Both sides are blaming the other for the disruption for the students and parents caused by the strike action.
The “negotiations” started as a push by teachers to make the classroom environment a better place to educate our children and then a sizable raise to bring their wage levels up to par with educators in other provinces.
The goal for the B.C. Liberal government, through its negotiators the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), was to get teachers to sign a long-term contract with minimal wage increases, such as those already signed by other public sector unions.
The negotiating game saw the BCTF providing a high-ball offer and the BCPSEA countering with a low-ball offer.
Then the rotating strikes started throughout the province and Education Minister Peter Fassbender introduced a plan to dock teachers 5 per cent pay for not carrying out their duties during the days they were on the picket line.
It escalated with more Fassbender threats and further BCTF strike action until a full-scale walkout forced public schools in B.C. to grind to a halt.
There was uncertainty about provincial exams and grad ceremonies at secondary schools, and elementary students lost their year-end activities.
Now, political pundits are painting a picture of the [greedy] teachers and how “unaffordable” their demands are – read these pages.
One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media is that back in the 1990s, teachers decided not to go for wage increases in order to successfully negotiate for improved class sizes and composition – because improved learning conditions were beneficial for students.
The class size and compositional language was stripped from the agreement in 2002 and the teachers fell even further behind their peers across the country.
However, it hasn’t been the same for members of the provincial legislature who gave themselves a 30 per cent wage hike in 2007, with an indexed basic salary resulting in a 34 per cent hike (from the 2007 base rate) in 2010/11, according to a May 2010 article by Maureen Bader who was the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation at the time.
So who is [greedy] and “unaffordable?”
Stop playing games; negotiate a decent wage hike; and do what’s best for our children.