A ray of hope in teacher talks

North Island teachers hopeful of agreement ahead of negotiations.

Dear editor,

A ray of hope at last! I am happy to be able to say that contract talks between the BCTF and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) began again on August 8, with an eye to getting things resolved before the start of the school year. Hopefully an agreement can be reached that meets the needs of our students as well as addressing some of the needs of teachers.

I would note that these are face-to-face negotiations; BCTF and BCPSEA have been in contact throughout the previous week looking for a way to move negotiations forward. It remains to be seen what restrictions government will put on this latest attempt at a resolution, but teachers are committed to reaching a fair negotiated settlement before September begins.

Interestingly enough, this announcement was made one day after the Minister of Finance released the government’s latest hare-brained scheme to add pressure to negotiations. In a press conference, our Finance Minister committed to pay parents of students under 13 years of age, who are affected by the lockout/strike, $40 a day to help offset the costs of daycare and to provide “educational opportunities” if the dispute carries on into September. This raised a whole raft of concerns in my mind.

The first would be that although our daycare providers are wonderful and qualified providers of care to our young, they are not teachers and should not be put in a situation where they have the expectation of providing more services than they are licensed to provide. It is unfair to put that added pressure on their shoulders.

The second is the slap in the face to teachers. By making this announcement, the government has underscored their opinion that teachers are just over-glorified babysitters. A quote I once heard is, “teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible.” I truly believe that in order to ensure that the fabric of our society remains strong, we must have a well-educated population. This is best produced by a happy and well-supported teaching force that is committed to regular professional development and personal education. Having a slap in the face by your employer would seem to be counter-productive to this.

Third is the idea that money saved off the backs of teachers should be spent to buy off parents. The government is attempting to buy the support of parents by using the roughly 12 million dollars a day they have saved by locking out teachers in this hare-brained scheme.  The money they are choosing to spend could easily be put toward reaching a settlement with teachers. My math skills put the savings so far at 13 days times 12 million dollars, or roughly 156 million dollars. Interestingly, that is about half of what it would take to restore education funding to the 2002 levels. Parents should be outraged by this blatant attempt to strip their support from the education system in exchange for political gain.

Lastly, by announcing this scheme, the government has provided proof that they do not expect, or seemingly want, a settlement to be reached before the school year starts. It is a sad commentary from a government who claims to put “Families First” when they think that paying off parents is more important than coming to a fair settlement with teachers.

I truly hope that the ray of hope offered by renewed negotiations will make the slap in the face from the employer sting a little less.

 

 

Shawn Gough

Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association

Local President

 

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