Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mel Joy and the BC Trustees' new approach?

When Trustee Mel Joy won a surprise victory to become Chair of the BC Public School Employer's Association (BCPSEA), teachers were hopeful. Could this mean a change in the attitudes and actions of the School Districts' bargaining agent, BCPSEA? Mel Joy said publicly that she would take a "softer" approach than her predecessor, Ron Christiansen.

Yesterday's press release put that idea to bed. It seems that BCPSEA has changed Mel Joy, not the other way around. Here are some quotes from the "softer" Mel Joy approach (http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/Media/00-DS-Arbitrator%20agrees%20with%20employers%27%20association.pdf):

"the BCTF has obstructed the process of bargaining"
"they resisted complying with the arbitrator's direction"


"They need to get on with bargaining and make a commitment to work with us to negotiate a collective agreement so students can learn and teachers can teach without any further disruption to the school year."

The implication is that teachers are not committed to negotiating. The implication is also that teachers are not teaching and students are not learning. Exactly where does Mel Joy get her evidence for these criticisms?

Mel Joy does not sit at the bargaining table. No doubt she is briefed. But at any rate, given BCPSEA's insistence on "net zero" and refusal to counter any cost item, it is hard to see how BCPSEA has commitment but teachers do not. Does "commitment" mean accepting nothing? Is that what BCPSEA and BC Trustees believe?

As to the implication that teachers are not teaching and students not learning - this is simply inflammatory.  Teachers have been very careful to ensure that teaching and learning are paramount and in fact, many teachers report having additional time to focus on teaching, planning and assessment. I have no doubt there are more issues in schools that impact students because of oversize and overcrowded classes than from anything related to teachers' job action, yet the BC government has failed to correct class sizes in spite of a Supreme Court ruling saying they must.

The reality is that the job action is impacting Principals, Vice Principals, Superintendents and some Trustees. Trustees are teachers' direct employers and should be much bigger participants in negotiations. In fact, this is one of the reasons teachers want more local bargaining - to engage Trustees in meaningful dialogue about local school issues. We could just as easily say that Trustees are abdicating their role and responsibility to negotiate by refusing to bargain more at the local tables.

But regardless, there seems to have been little change in the Trustees Association's attitude towards teachers and teacher bargaining.


  1. Perhaps the BCTF should be demanding that Ms Joy come to the bargaining table.

  2. It makes me very angry when I read things like "teachers need to get on with bargaining" making it sould like they're the ones that are stalling! Bargaining is a give and take; bcpsea want to take and give nothing and they expect the teachers to give up all. Go teachers!!!