Friday, February 10, 2012

Negotiate, don't legislate

With the appointment of a so-called "fact finder", the BC government is apparently orchestrating its plan to legislate BC teachers and impose a contract.

I say "so-called" because the government has appointed one of their own...we cannot expect any serious, independent report from an appointed government bureaucrat. He is not independent. He is not an arbitrator, mediator, or from the Labour Board. Worse than that, in his previous life, Trevor Hughes worked for the employer's association in healthcare - the BC Health Employers Association. This is the health care equivalent of teachers' employers association, BC Public School Employers Association.

In my mind, the report is a foregone conclusion, and is simply a set up to give the government some PR when they use the legislative hammer. Teachers have not provided a reason to legislate, so the government will manufacture one.

Sadly, a few voices joined the call for a legislated end, including one Trustee in my school district, Michael McEvoy. McEvoy incensed teachers when he suggested on CBC that the job action is hurting children. He conveniently failed to mention the impact of Bills 27 and 28 which eliminated class size and class composition rules and has been devastating for student learning. How anyone could suggest a missed report card is equivalent to the elimination of $3 billion in funding over the last decade is just mind boggling.

But back to the "fact finder"...the question is "can there be a negotiated settlement?" My answer is yes. But to get there, the government will have respond to teachers in bargaining. They have so far refused to engage in any bargaining on salary, benefits, improving working and learning conditions and restoring teachers' rights to negotiate class sizes. They have refused to discuss anything that does not fit their agenda. They have refused to discuss anything that costs a penny. How is this working towards a negotiated settlement?

A legislated settlement will not solve the government's problem. It will not enable government to consider changes to our education system in a collaborative and respectful manner. It will alienate and anger teachers and create more barriers with the 40,000 people who actually teach kids in classrooms every day. There are many other options for the government to pursue - first and foremost changing their "mandate". 


  1. One of the things teachers do hae is leverage on extra-curricular activities and co-curricular activities/field trips (during the school day). If a contract is imposed on teachers by the government, then the teachers may choose to withdraw from participating in these activities for the duration of the contract. This did happen during the Mike Harris Ontario Conservative government when teachers withdrew from extra-curricular activities.

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  3. Another thing that teachers could refuse to do during the duriation of an imposed contract is to refuse to act as principal-designate. This is when a principal is required to leave the school and there is no vice-principal to replace him/her.

  4. As a teacher of 23 years, and a witness to this "charade" laughingly called "bargaining", if the government legislates us then all goodwill is gone! Any extras will be pulled...9:00 to 3:00. This government will find out that there is a consequence to their disrespect and heavy-handedness! Remember parents, we tried very hard to keep Phase I as far away from the students as possible. If you are a citizen who cares about public education...a system that consistently ranks in the top 5 WORLDWIDE, then force this government to negotiate, not legislate. McEvoy is on the wrong side when he requests the fall-out when angry parents find out how eroded this system will become.