News Views: Bitter dispute

The provincial government has been painting teachers’ contract demands as unaffordable and out of line.

Summer school and report cards are the latest casualties in the dispute between the provincial government and B.C. teachers.

Students in grades 10-12 are to see final letter grades by June 30, but most others are unlikely to see the results of their work.

Teachers also refused the government’s offer this past week to drop their pickets for summer school.

And we don’t blame them.

The provincial government has been painting teachers’ contract demands as unaffordable and out of line with what other public section unions recently settled for.

But the HEU and CUPE are lower skill unions than teachers, whose profession is designated an essential service. Teachers have a minimum four years of university education, and live in the most expensive province in the country. They are the second lowest paid group of teachers in Canada.

And earlier this year the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the provincial government violated teachers’ rights in disregarding negotiated class size limits and that the former did not bargain in good faith.

How much money has the provincial government saved since it began, in 2002, ignoring legislation on class sizes and special needs support? Much of the cost attached to teachers’ current demands is linked to honouring that legislation.

Teachers are currently asking for an eight per cent pay raise over five years, which is peanuts, especially given their responsibility in helping shape today’s youth. But teachers aren’t trying to get rich here. They are, in the bigger picture, fighting to preserve public education – which in the past two years has seen more than $10 million slashed from the local school district budget alone. School staff have been among the cuts.

What has the B.C. Liberal government done to improve public education? What it has done is create bitterness in public schools, which can’t be conducive to learning.

We want more for our students. We believe education is important. So are our teachers. Treat them so.

– The News