If only we had back-to-work legislation for governments.
On July 31 the province announced its $40-a-day plan for parents, should the teachers’ dispute not be resolved. The government appeared to have made up its mind the strike would continue – and, voilà, so it has. Now taxpayers’ money is going to child care and administration of this new program.
Not that I would deny parents, who have been put in a tough and expensive position, the financial help. This strike is hitting parents – and children – hard.
Then along came the province’s brilliant PR move at the 11th hour. Education minister Peter Fassbender suggested that teachers end the strike by leaving class size and composition out of their demands until the government’s appeal is through the courts. Fassbender, whose background is in marketing, was once again giving the message that the key to the strike lies solely in the teachers’ hands. Once again, teachers are demonized.
That said, I do not hold the teachers’ union blameless. Its leadership has not been angelic nor some of its demands reasonable.
However, what must not be forgotten is that the government, in 2002, with Christy Clark as education minister, passed a bill stripping the teachers’ contract of class size and composition, issues which are now clearly undermining the quality of education in our schools and the ability of teachers to teach.
The BC Supreme Court ruled the government had acted illegally and should bargain in good faith with teachers. Instead of listening to the court, the government passed yet another bill, which was also found by the BC Supreme Court to be illegal and unconstitutional. Now the government is wasting more taxpayers’ money by appealing that decision – and is telling teachers to just forget those key issues in bargaining until the appeal is concluded.
BC Conservative Party leader Dan Brooks was in town last week. With him he brought a plan to end the strike. While he is, of course, politically driven, he voiced very practical solutions. One was to drop the appeal, not only because of its cost but its extremely negative effect on negotiations.
He emphasized that, as a conservative, one of his top concerns is fiscal responsibility. He said he was very surprised when he researched the financial aspects of the negotiations and discovered a reasonable settlement is completely affordable for the province.
Brooks also voiced what has become painfully obvious. The provincial government’s objective is to break the teachers union.
No matter the cost. No matter that government has acted illegally twice and has been chastised by the province’s Supreme Court. No matter that parents are being forced to pay. No matter that children are losing out on their education. And no matter that teachers, most of whom do their jobs because they care about children and education, are being demonized in this province. Government, good and reasonable; teachers, greedy and evil.
It’s time for citizens to demand that the government do its job, drop the appeal, engage in meaningful negotiations and get teachers and students back in the classroom.