What cost labour peace?

No one wins when teachers and the ministry are locked in endless court battles.

Last week, a B.C. Supreme Court justice gave the provincial government a failing grade for its handling of negotiations with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. For good measure, she then took a ruler to its knuckles.

The teachers, predictably, celebrated the decision. The government, just as predictably, appealed it.

The decision by Justice Susan Griffin, with its damning claim that the Liberal government purposely tried to force a teachers’ strike for political gain, is clearly not the end of the teachers’ battle for bargaining justice. It is, rather, just another shot over the rampart of a government that seems content to hunker down and let the union stew in its siege lines.

Both sides are quick to assert they are motivated by the desire to provide a long-term benefit to B.C.’s students. For the teachers this seems to mean more resources; for the government it means not bleeding away the treasury on “exorbitant” labour costs.

The extra resources to shrink class size and boost staffing would also benefit the BCTF membership, of course. Withholding those funds, on the other hand, gives the government a better shot at rolling out election-year gifts to voters or, at the minimum, selling the party as responsible stewards of the public purse.

Meanwhile, that purse apparently contains little more than lint and crumpled gum wrappers. Education Minister Peter Fassbender turned out his pockets Tuesday to announce the government’s appeal, claiming Griffin’s ruling could cost taxpayers $1 billion.

Frankly, we’re beginning to wonder what we’re paying for this constant arming of lawyers who are marched off to repel the union. The government may have the P.R. machinery to turn the public against the teachers, but the longer this goes on, the less likely that anyone “wins”.

Call an armistice. Sit at the table. Seek a solution.

 

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