Crystal Warner: Side with the people, choose our teachers

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Crime, unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, preventable diseases, teen pregnancy, and a slew of other problems could be greatly reduced by making a long-term investment in public education. What better way to inoculate our nation against the ills listed above than by investing in its future—the kids who will one day form the backbone of its economy and government?

      Make no mistake: the initial investment will require careful planning and foresight. The return on our investment will not be immediate, so we the people will need to exercise patience and, more importantly, faith. Faith in the plan and those who we task with seeing it though: the policy-makers that we have elected to office.

      Sadly, we have lowered the bar when it comes to our expectations of elected officials in British Columbia. Public services keep getting hit, and we are all affected by the cuts. Whenever a group of people—be they veterans, postal workers, unions, researchers, or teachers—come into conflict with the government, we must not hesitate and side with the people. 

      This line of thinking may sound less rash after considering some facts.

      Remember when the B.C. Liberals, poised to take power back in 2001, promised public sector workers that they would not roll back contracts signed by the outgoing NDP government? And remember how only a year after making that promise, they did?

      Are you aware that the Supreme Court of B.C. has twice declared the dissolution of the teachers' contract at the hands of the Liberals illegal? And that our Liberal government is using your tax dollars to continue appealing these decisions in higher courts?

      The public is being asked to choose between a government that treats our public servants, our children's teachers, with no respect—or with union members who put the needs of those they serve first.

      B.C. teachers fought hard and willingly traded wage increases in exchange for a say in the size and composition of their classrooms. The government agreed to the terms and then when the Liberals took power in 2002, they illegally tore up the agreement.

      To reiterate: teachers were willing to forgo a raise in order to improve classroom conditions. They literally put the kids first.

      B.C.'s teachers are trying to get back what was unjustly taken from them over a decade ago. But some people are not really talking about that. Some people seem to be fixated on the money. So we should discuss the money.

      Teachers should be making good money. No one seems overly concerned that MPs make over $120,000 a year, but when we hear of teachers making $80,000 a year after 10 years on the job, we start getting uncomfortable.

      Why are we uncomfortable with the people who are tasked with molding the minds of tomorrow being paid well? Never mind how many of them buy their own school supplies, or put in countless hours helping kids with special needs. Even so, B.C. teacher’s rank fourth among the provinces with regard to salary. Add to this B.C.'s cost of living and housing market and you start to see how they really compare to their counterparts across Canada.

      In the end, it comes down to this: our teachers are telling us that they do not have the resources necessary to do a good job. Their classrooms are too full, they have too many special needs students, and they lack the resources to cope.

      And since their job is to educate the next generation of Canadians—the very people who are going to drive the economy and potentially govern the rest of us in the near future—I say we listen to them and tell the government to make good on the promises it broke (illegally, I might add again, in case you forgot) over 10 years ago.

      Our government squanders tax dollars without our permission. Maybe if we hold them accountable for their actions we can free up some cash for the kids. Until then, I'll continue to side with the teachers.




      Sep 2, 2014 at 11:51am

      No thanks, I think I'll side with the people. That is, the people who pay taxes that pay the salaries of both teachers (and their inept leaders), and the salaries of the government (and their inept leaders). While Christy Clark may be a dim light bulb, Jim Iker seems to be a greedy light bulb. I have looked at the salaries of teachers and realized that they earn WELL ABOVE the average salary of most workers in BC. So I think I'll support the government (and their inept leaders) instead of the teachers (and their inept leaders). If Jim Iker is so sure he has the support of the members of his union, why won't he let them vote on the current contract proposal????????????


      Sep 2, 2014 at 12:30pm

      Thank you for the support! Spot on!

      Jamey Mills

      Sep 2, 2014 at 12:34pm

      Thanks for reminding us of the mistreatment teachers have had for over a decade. They do put children first


      Sep 2, 2014 at 12:42pm

      Eh, we all side with teachers, it is like siding with oxygen.

      How about we have calls for nuance?

      From what we read in the news, this strike is about one thing: whether or not to increases in student registration should trigger hirings, as an element of the collective agreement. The two sides are pretty much there in terms of salary. Salary is done, it's not a part of this.

      Should class size be a bargainable topic? In principle, sure, why not, but the fact is that there is ongoing court action on this. And whether or not we like that the govt has appealed the cases it lost, they get to appeal, just as the union would get to appeal if it had lost.

      The next court date is in October. That's just the next court date. When will the submissions be due, maybe six weeks after? When will the decision come out after the submissions are given, three months later? Six?

      And is that the end of the appeals?

      We could in theory be having this discussion a year from now, easy.

      But we won't because everyone knows that the average teacher is not rolling in dough and sooner or later they are going to vote to go back to work, albeit "to rule," which of course they might have done already.

      This will not break the union but it will hurt, and as a union guy myself I don't just blame the employer for being all "fiscally responsible," I would ask myself if my union leader FORESAW these EXTREMELY FORESEEABLE dates, and put me out of work for NO GAIN WHATSOEVER.


      Sep 2, 2014 at 12:49pm

      @blahh: teachers in BC require a minimum of 5 years post secondary education. Is it really fair to constantly compare them with other sectors and workers that require less education? I know this has been the backbone of the Liberal argument (getting into "the zone"), but what is the relevance? It's comparing apples to oranges. Just because others are making less, doesn't mean teachers shouldn't get a raise as part of a fair, negotiated settlement. And don't let the numbers fool you. A starting wage in BC is around $50k. That jumps to just over $70k for 10+ years of service. It is slightly more if the teacher holds a Master's Degree (6 years of post secondary). It is only $80k if you include benefits, which many use sparingly if at all (basic dental and prescriptions after a deductible has been met).

      Kelly Megyesi

      Sep 2, 2014 at 12:57pm

      Well written article - thanks for having a voice!


      Sep 2, 2014 at 1:35pm

      You see Joseph, that is exactly the problem. You (and apparently the lousy union leaders) think $70,000 is not enough for a job that requires you to work only 9 months a year. Your self entitlement to the taxpayers money is why you are losing this battle. And Jeez, why do teachers require 5 years of schooling. They merely read the textbooks and then tell the students what they have read.


      Sep 2, 2014 at 1:56pm


      Really, they tell them what they've read?

      Give me a break, it's real work. Don't you remember school?

      From what I saw, teachers have to read the textbooks and understand everything in them themselves because someone is going to ask a question from left field and if you can't answer, there goes the credibility.

      They have to get the attention of a group, hold the attention, use tricks and tactics to keep the mouthy smartasses like me from ruining the experience for the ones that didn't eat breakfast this morning or are thinking about sex.

      They are in loco parentis and have to keep an eye on discipline problems, bullying problems, and potential report-to-social-services kids at risk.

      Then they go home and mark essays, give feedback, and then go to bed so that they have the energy to do it again, and again, and again.

      And the worst thing, or it would be for me: they work under total scrutiny. There is probably no more cynical thing than a high school student. Can you imagine being stared at by 24 pairs of eyeballs for a solid hour with no break as you try to talk, think on your feet, adjust the lesson plan because of some interesting new fact or directive from upstairs, etc etc? Whatever it is that you do for work, blahh, it's probably not with 24 pairs of eyeballs glued to you, judging your performance and also your hair, your fat, your clothes, your smell, et fucking cetera.

      Shit teachers exist and are painfully obvious, I had a few, so did everyone, but most of them were solid leaders, good people, strong workers. I got no problem with teachers.

      I have a problem with dumb rhetoric, leaders walking their people into closed alleys, with aggressive confrontation where clever manipulation or GASP compromise meet in the middle negotiation might have done it, and set a good example for society to boot.

      Vanessa Miller

      Sep 2, 2014 at 2:00pm

      Our teachers deserve our support. They work tirelessly to ensure that our kids get the same quality education we enjoyed in BC. Our kids deserve better and we need to show the liberals that the public agrees and supports this fight!

      Hulio Rodriguez

      Sep 2, 2014 at 3:04pm

      Stay strong BC Teachers!!!