News Views: Teachers give, but get nothing in return

They are not the same as unionized beer-bottle stackers.

No offense to teachers, but if pay isn’t the most important issue in this contract dispute with the government, then why did they start out by asking for a 15 per cent wage increase, knowing the province was offering nothing in the way of a raise?

The rhetoric from the protest lines this past week, when teachers walked off the job for three days, was all about working conditions. Teachers are upset, and rightfully so, that the province has drafted back-to-work legislation that does not address their concerns about classroom size or composition. Teachers feel that there are too many children per class, and too many special needs students in general that, at times, they can’t perform their jobs to the fullest of their abilities, that the majority of students aren’t getting the most from them.

There are other issues, too. So all of a sudden, pay isn’t that important?

Let’s be real here. Teachers are tired of working for free – giving, but getting nothing in return – which is why those in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows voted on Wednesday to withdraw all volunteer school services until at least 2013. That could mean no more coaching school sports – no more school basketball or track and field meets – no more school music or drama clubs.

All of those are invaluable to schools and students, and one could argue that teachers should receive some compensation for providing those services. We will only learn how valuable they are once we miss them, and our children have to find other ways to pass time – and parents actually have to pay for it.

No doubt class size and composition are important, too, but so are teachers. Those in B.C., the most expensive province in which to live in Canada, are the ninth highest paid in the country; fourth, the province says, if you include benefits.

Surely, teachers deserve more. They are not the same as unionized beer-bottle stackers. They provide what the province deems is an essential service. They deserve what they can get through collective bargaining, or a truly mediated settlement, subject to some accountability and responsibility to the public.

Taking that ability from teachers, given the crucial role they play in our society, shouldn’t be a solution to the government’s economic struggles. Not unless what the government wants is more beer-bottle stackers.

– The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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