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

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.

Comments (21) Add New Comment
blah
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.
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Mark
Absolutely ridiculous. Unions like BCTF won't fire teachers that don't perform, yet they want even more money.
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Yawn
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.
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David
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.
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mike dodd
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.
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Martin Dunphy
blah:

Teachers aren't paid for the summer months off work. Back to school with you.
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ARCON
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.
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Arthur Vandelay
@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.
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Hazlit
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.
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Mel
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.
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blah
@ Martin, My mistake, teachers get paid $70,000 per year with extended medical benefits for 9 months work. That's WAY ABOVE the average salary of most working people in BC. There is very little support for the absurd demands of the teachers union. Just ask any WORKING parent.
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blah
The teachers union likes to yell about how everything they are doing is "for the students". But are things like class sizes, etc even covered in the contract negotiations??? Most contract negotiations only cover things like salaries and benefits - and the teachers are more than adequately compensated.
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Arcon
@Arthur

There is a HUGE difference between the 74k teachers here get after ALL those qualifications AND a decade of service, and the 90k or 100k teachers get in Alberta. Teachers here do not expect to 'catch up' to those provinces, but being ten to twenty thousand per year behind is a huge gap. Private sector workers can reasonably expect to earn similar wages in companies that provide the same product (see tech companies, law firms, construction firms, etc.), and education is (and should be) no different.

By the way, the only teachers that make 84k here are those who have worked for at LEAST a decade, and hold a BA, a PDP, AND a Master's... for all that education, 84k is not exactly impressive.
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Xtina
To those commentators that say teachers are paid fairly or too much, I challenge you to remember that Vancouver is the second least affordable city in the world. This economic reality is proven by B.C. having the highest child poverty in our wealthy industrialized nation. Thanks for listening!
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Hazlit
Multiple choice test. Choose one answer below.

A) Give teachers EVERYTHING they want; see your tax bill rise by $100.

B) Give teachers SOME of what they want; see your pay raise canceled and your tax bill rise by $500.

C) Deny teachers ALL of they want; lose your job (if you have one) and see your tax bill rise by $5000.

Note: failure to make a choice, writing "none of the above," or screaming about the unfairness of this test makes the answer default to to C.
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Jim
@Arcon I am tired of people thinking compensation is salary. its a combination of health benefits, rrsp group contribution opportunity, and pension Only a quarter of private employees receive a company funded retirement and most private employees do not receive benefits that are on par with what teachers receive. So if you take that into consideration, which you have to, since tax payers are funding the retirement plan of teachers the don't make peanuts. Teachers pension pays approximately 3k per month. That means 36k annualy. So take that number and add it to you salary each year. Yes, that is how you calculate the worth of your pension. You earn your pension when you work and its paid when you retire. So, at the lower end of the pay scale, a 50k teacher is making 86k (they get the 36k per year when they retire). then you still have to add in health benefits, and then add in if they use rrsp contribution.

As for other provinces. Its a terrible conversation to have. Apples and Oranges. My job, with my company, pays more in Toronto. I have the choice to move but i stay here and get paid less. I like Vancouver more and that is the trade-off.
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Absurd posturing
Every demand from the teachers that gives them neither increased salary nor benefits should be agreed to by the government; not one additional dollar should be spent on salaries, bonuses or benefits because they are not warranted by the market. There is a glut of certified teachers in BC and we keep churning them out year after year. They already get pay increases for degrees from "universities" one can see advertised on TV, an absurd state of affairs, and their "sick days" have remained the same even as the number of instruction days has decreased. They neither merit nor warrant increases in salary or benefits.

The real issue, the one few of you have the reasoning ability to comprehend, is the ridiculous amounts of money spent by school boards on bureaucracy. Millions each year disappear into a morass of anonymous "administrators" & "superintendents" & "directors" & "facilitators" & myriad other labels for memo readers & paper pushers who deliver no direct services to the public and have no responsibility. This is the case with every "public service" where there are too many people overseeing a few actually delivering services. The bureaucrats are smart and they know that they have to hide their true costs as well as make cuts to frontline services to get the unions frothing.

The bureaucrats have an ally in the union leadership and know that they will never be the target of workers agitation. Unions have their own problems with bureaucracy and they need to maintain the fiction that there are only two players in the game. Who actually decides how money is spent by the "government?" If you believe the elected government decides you are naive & likely a loyal party drone. Government budgets are routinely ignored by bureaucrats: spending priorities changed, cuts made in areas specifically protected by the elected government and services eliminated. Over the last couple of years we have heard of at least three public service bureaucracies that ignored bans on raises & bonuses and when the press reported each instance within days there was a leak of some kind to embarrass the government or a specific minister.

Go ahead and pick your side and believe that either the BCTF & teachers are "infallible" or "evil:" you are simply obeying your conditioning.
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It is About Time...
... for a province-wide strike. The students learn some things in the classroom, some by example. Students are also capable of striking; the early trade-union movement involved plenty of people who are today "school aged."

Really, students should be striking for better classroom conditions and wages. That students are told to do classwork (and homework) without compensation is disgusting and an affront to their right to be paid for their work.
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Employee of a REAL JOB
There is a lot of hate on this thread. I would like to point out a couple things.
1. Teaching is a REAL JOB!! Just as real as a politician, salesman, telemarketer, etc.
2. Pension contributions are split between the employer and employee. Tax payers do not pay for the entire plan!
3. A basic wage increase after years of 0% is only fair. In fact 0% increase is actually a pay cut considering inflation, more fees, tax increases, etc.
4. If you think we can't bargain for better student learning conditions, then check the court rulings!
5. I am a tax payer and I want the best healthcare, the best education, and the best fire & police services! Unlike some people here, I realize to have these things it costs money. If you can't handle this basic fact move to the states cause I hear you only pay for what you need.
6. If you are jealous of a teacher and wish to have what we have, then get your education degree and apply for a teaching position. Don't compare apples and oranges! Teaching requires different skill sets than a tradesmen and different skill sets from an office worker. We all chose our paths so if you are unhappy with yours then get off your duff and make a change for the better.

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FartingForFreedomEachandEveryDay
Remove source deductions from their income and teachers could possibly have a living wage.
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