School showdown

There is room to move on both sides, but there’s little hope of conciliation on this delicate file.

You don’t have to be a union supporter to think the B.C. Liberal government is being unusually inflammatory in its battle with the BC Teachers’ Federation.

Sure, the BCTF is being unreasonable with a wage proposal that would hike wages far and away above what other B.C. public and most private sector unions are settling for. Even teachers’ CUPE colleagues settled for much less than what the teachers are asking for — and the support workers’ deal was one of the richer in a province, where many unions have grudgingly settled for 5.5 per cent over five years.

There is room to move on both sides, but there’s little hope of conciliation on this delicate file – with Education Minister Peter Fassbender, whose start in education dates back to the early days of back-to-basics schools, tough-talking Peter Cameron and Premier Christy Clark, never a friend of teachers – at the reins.

Did we really need to poke the hornet’s nest with a 10 per cent wage cut while saying that teachers can continue to do their volunteer and extra-curricular work? Unprecedented in teachers’ talks, this PR move to make the teachers look and feel bad has just strengthened their resolve, leaving graduation ceremonies, end-of-year concerts and barbecues in shambles.

Oddly, this jab from the B.C. Public Employers’ Association comes during one of the BCTF’s least disruptive work stoppages in recent memory.

Clearly the power lies with the B.C. Liberals, still fresh from last year’s election, but this power must be wielded judiciously. They should drop the six-year-contact demand down to four, get rid of the inflammatory zero per cent mid-contract, eliminate the signing bonus in favour of a retroactive pay increase –like the one the province gave CUPE – and put class size and composition issues into mediation.

If something isn’t done to bring some rationality into teacher talks, we’re looking at a future where educators watch the clock rather than attend their duties, both paid and unpaid, and that would be a great loss.

– Black Press