Cindy Oliver: Government’s hardball tactics with teachers won’t lead to fair settlement

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      Despite court rulings that have found the B.C. government’s legislative attacks against teachers and classroom conditions to be not only ill-advised but also unconstitutional, the lead negotiator for the B.C. government in the current round of bargaining seems bent on disabling labour relations in B.C.’s public school system. Peter Cameron of the B.C. Public Schools Employers' Association has announced a 10-percent cut in teacher pay as part of a pressure tactic designed to force the teachers to respond to the latest contract proposal put forward by employers.

      What Cameron and the entire B.C. Liberal cabinet refuse to acknowledge, however, is that on two critical issues in the current round of teacher negotiations—class size and composition—the B.C. Supreme Court has said the government’s position is indefensible. And rather than concede that the court’s decision should form the basis of a new collective agreement with teachers, the provincial cabinet, the premier, and their lead negotiator are trying desperately to frame the BCTF as intransigent.

      The truth, however, is that the B.C. government’s ham-fisted approach to teacher bargaining is the real culprit. Starting with its infamous contract ripping legislation in 2002, the B.C. government has been in attack mode against teachers. A decade later and several defeats in the courts have not penetrated the war room mentality that characterizes the B.C. government’s approach to bargaining with teachers. Unfortunately, school kids and classroom conditions have suffered because the B.C. Liberals aren’t prepared to invest in improvements to those conditions.

      The same tight-fisted fiscal approach is evident in other parts of the provincial public sector. From health care and social services to direct government services, the government’s austerity drive is squeezing the very services that B.C. needs to prosper and grow. We see it in postsecondary education as well; chronic under-funding of our institutions is reducing access and making affordability just that much harder for our students.

      Like every union in B.C. we are standing with teachers. The B.C. government has to recognize that picking a fight with teachers is no way to find a fair settlement in 2014. The sooner Cameron and Co. figure out that teachers are not alone in these negotiations, the sooner teachers and their students can get back to class.

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      May 27, 2014 at 2:57pm

      Teachers demands for a salary over $70,000 per year won't lead to settlement. They also have numerous extra benefits that most citizens don't get either. Not to mention three months a year off work. Teachers are their own worst enemy.


      May 27, 2014 at 3:45pm

      Absolutely ridiculous. Unions like BCTF won't fire teachers that don't perform, yet they want even more money.


      May 27, 2014 at 4:00pm

      This 30 year labour dispute is getting really old. Thankfully they're going on vacation soon so we get a break from their incessant whining. Teachers live in la la land.


      May 27, 2014 at 5:00pm

      Wow the comments are insane. Teachers aren't holding out for big salaries, they're trying to get this government to reinstate class size and composition provisions so kids can stop being the victims of under funding. Oh sure a little increase after a multi-year wage freeze wouldn't hurt, but this is mostly about the government refusing to hire more teachers and special ed assistants to lower student/teacher ratios, help ESL kids integrate faster and cope with special needs kids.

      If you look at our schools today you'll find all sorts of gymnastics being performed by school administrators to try to balance classes. Almost every class at my kids' school is split grade so the teacher is forced to teach two different curricula simultaneously, cope with high numbers of ESL and deal with special needs kids without the assistance of an SEA except in the most extreme cases. Teachers can't give your kids or mine the attention they deserve under those conditions.

      The BC Liberals have been at war with the children of BC for 12 years and it needs to stop.

      mike dodd

      May 27, 2014 at 9:12pm

      Thank you, its nice to hear someone accurately articulate the crux of the problem. Your teachers I am sure are very very proud of your insight and logic. Law will prevail, it has to, it might take us some time though.

      Martin Dunphy

      May 27, 2014 at 9:14pm


      Teachers aren't paid for the summer months off work. Back to school with you.


      May 27, 2014 at 10:06pm

      The amount of ignorance on here is shocking; I am not a contracted teacher, so lets get perceived bias out of the way before I address the nonsense I see here.

      1. In order for a teacher to make more than $70,000 per year, they need to have a Bachelor's, a teaching degree, an unpaid(!) practicum, and hundreds of volunteer hours... and that doesn't even guarantee an interview, let alone a job.

      2. As far as benefits go, any private sector company worth their salt provides those, and even to the 'lowest' member; I could become a lot-boy for a car dealership tomorrow, and expect to have health and dental benefits within three months - and it would have required several university degrees to obtain.

      3. "Three months off"; it isn't three. It also isn't paid. Teachers get paid for three weeks vacation; all other time off is unemployment for which there is no money. The option to 'stretch' cheques over summer is a payment option only.

      4. Teachers get disciplined and fired constantly; have you never looked at the BCTF website? These days, just LOOKING at a student the wrong way is grounds for discipline, and if a teacher is slacking, administrators can (and do) take corrective action that can indeed lead to firing.

      Out of the last fifteen years, teachers have taken a 0% wage increase in seven of those years; meanwhile, the average BC worker gets a 2% to 3% raise per year (check the Canadian Conference Board for reference). The teachers had their work conditions illegally damaged by the Liberals, as identified by the Supreme Court not once, but TWICE.

      There is only one villain here, and it's the presiding government.

      Arthur Vandelay

      May 27, 2014 at 11:17pm

      @ARCON - probably not fair to say that teachers only make $70,000 and they only get paid for 9 months. Either (1) they work a $70,000/year job that offers 3 months of holiday, or (2) they choose to work for 9 months a year which pays an annualized salary of $93,000 and change.

      Either way, Global TV reported last week that the salary after 10 years experience was $84,000 and change in BC, while it was $95,000 in Ontario and just under $100,000 in Alberta. Those all seem like pretty good salaries for 9 or 9.5 months of work.


      May 28, 2014 at 8:21am

      Can we talk about sessional teachers now? The average sessional teacher has a Ph.D., years and years of experience, and makes an average salary of 20,000 to 40,000. We get paid ONLY for hours worked in a classroom. For new courses the ratio of prep to pay is about 3 to 1. Grading, assisting students, commenting on papers--these are NEVER paid. The notion of a COLA is laughable. Paid health care is rare. Firing can happen at any time, at any instant, from one minute to the next. We beg to work in the summers so that we can keep a roof over our heads.

      I challenge ANYone anywhere to find a job paid less for the amount of training required. I hate to tell readers this but you (your corporation really) need(s) higher taxes so I and my fellow teachers can be better paid.

      We sessionals stand with secondary school teachers because our shared problem is teacher hatred. Teacher hatred is expensive--far more expensive than givning teachers everything they want. Why? Because it leads to privatization.

      When you get angry at what you imagine teachers get (but really you have no f*ing idea) you choose to defund education. This leads to a decline in quality and then the creation of private schools to compensate. Private schools are for the rich and their tuition prices--often upwards of $50,000 yr--are through the roof.

      Over the long term the defunding of public education hurts the economy, and therefore hurts people like you. Basically, if you want to paid more and keep your job, you better be needling your private sector CEO to increase teacher salaries. To do anything else would be pure folly.


      May 28, 2014 at 8:41am

      Why don't they quit teaching and try to get a Real job in private enterprise, then they could try their continuous disruption , SEE HOW FAR THEY WOULD GET , WALKING TO THE CLOSEST STREET.