Nobody’s happy with compromise.

So, I don’t love the tentative deal between the BCTF and BCPSEA.

But I don’t hate it either.

Which means that it’s probably about as fair as it’s going to get. Because wishing that it was better while feeling like it could have been worse? That’s what compromise is.

Now, do I feel as though both sides compromised equally on this contract? No. I do feel like the teachers gave up more. But as much as I’d like a salary increase that actually kept up with the rate of inflation, and the budget to fund some firm way of handling class size and composition, this whole strike wasn’t about economics.

At its core, this strike was about ideology – the ideas and concepts that are valued. BCTF teachers believe in public education. And, through this job action, it’s come out that a whole lot of the public does too.

And that support can’t be written into a collective agreement.

So the teachers may have lost on the financial side with this tentative contract. But this fight isn’t over. This contract doesn’t end the dispute between the teachers and the BC Liberals.  In fact, it will be returning to the public eye very soon when the government’s appeal of their second court loss is heard next month.

And because of this strike, more people will be paying attention. More people will understand what’s at stake. More people will tune in when they hear the words “class size and composition.”

More people will care.

So, if this tentative agreement is accepted, and I get to go back to work, and students ask me what was gained from this strike, I’ll be able to answer them.

Because we gained modest funding increases to hire more teachers.

We gained the first salary adjustments since I entered this profession.

We secured better treatment for the thousands of teachers who spend years working on call.

We stood up to a government who was trying to get around the law.

We didn’t compromise our rights as Canadians.

We educated the public about the current state of our schools.

We brought our government’s treatment of its citizens to the forefront.

We awoke the politically apathetic.

And people from all cultures, backgrounds, and stages of life stood with teachers in support of education.

So, no, I’m not in love with the negotiated contract. But this dispute isn’t over.

The teachers are going back to court next month. But we’re not going alone. Because of this strike, many of you are going with us. You’re informed. You’re involved. And you’re appreciated.

While this contract isn’t the thing of my dreams, the public support we’ve been experiencing this past few weeks is. And teachers’ job action wasn’t about the money in this one contract. It was about raising awareness. It was about opening minds and enlightening citizens.

So, I’ll be voting to accept this contract. Not because I think it’s ideal or truly meets anybody’s needs, but because it puts us – teachers and students – in a better position that we found ourselves last June.

Because this isn’t a dispute over economics. It’s a dispute over values. And the BC Liberals are as committed to not compromising their values as the teachers are.

So a negotiated settlement that doesn’t make anyone truly happy? It’s an improvement.

But a third court victory, backed by countless newly informed members of the community? That’s where real progress will be made.

 

I hope.

13 thoughts on “Nobody’s happy with compromise.

  1. Gen

    Thank you. My mind was set on no, but now I’m back on the fence. You’re right, a yes doesn’t mean the war is over. But I’m wondering how can we keep voicing the lack of fund? Should we choose not to buy supplies anymore? Should we cut back on volunteering our time at lunch and after school? Whatever mean would be best, we need to be united on it.

  2. Judy Lea

    You raise some really good points. If only what you said was true: “Because we gained modest funding increases to hire more teachers.” As far as I can see, we gained absolutely nothing this year, 5 million for the next 3 years (that’s $10/student ), and another 5 million the year after that – I would not call that modest: I would call that insulting, shameful, totally skimpy funding increases. I did not lose 5+ weeks of salary and stand on the picket line and go to protests and talk and post and post and post for that!

    And… perhaps you are right. Maybe it’s the best we can possible get with this government. And it makes me feel sick and defeated.

  3. Ashley D. MacKenzie Post author

    Hi Judy,

    While you’re completely free to agree or disagree with the terms of the contract, I do need to clarify that my point regarding modest increases for hiring teachers was taken directly from this line of the BCTF press release:
    “Several hundred new teaching positions each year as a result of an annual education fund that will be used exclusively for bargaining unit members.”
    As such, what I’ve said here is accurate – even if you don’t believe that the funding is adequate.

    Ashley

  4. Karin

    You know what would truly be a win? Getting the Liberals out of power in a few years. And I think this strike – because it did “educate the public about the current state of our schools”, bring “our government’s treatment of its citizens to the forefront” and awaken “the politically apathetic” – may have gone a certain distance toward making that happen. Let’s not mince words: financially, it’s a terrible contract for teachers. But we weren’t fighting a financial war, so it’s a battle lost in an ideological war to save public education that we just might yet win.

  5. Craig

    I think the tricky bit with this is that it essentially puts off more conflict for the duration of the agreement, but really doesn’t fundamentally address the education system and its need for overhaul.

    If each generation of teachers takes “ok for now I guess” deals in perpetuity, real revolution can’t occur.

    At some point, there needs to be a group of active teachers who go beyond a strike or compromise and push for that revolution.

    In a world of increasingly less valued “we make stuff” economies we really need strong minds in our future generations so we can “think up stuff” and “solve stuff” instead of prepping students for blue-collar jobs that are shrinking every year.

    Just my 2c of course.

  6. Ashley D. MacKenzie Post author

    Hi Craig,

    I don’t disagree that our education system would benefit from some restructuring and change. However, I do think that fundamental changes – things that are truly revolutionary – can only occur when the populace is ready for them. So, while I think we may be building toward those changes, I don’t think that the new, tenuous support that teachers have garnered over the duration of this strike is enough to sustain them at this point.

    Ashley

  7. Lynda

    Ashley, I believe you are correct. I am not a teacher, or a parent of school aged children. What I am is a dedicated supporter of the public school system. What the teachers did this year was a wonderfully courageous act of defiance, against a government who thought they could starve the teachers into submission, so that you would take anything they “chose” to give you. Thank you for standing up to them. It is not a good contract, but it is a starting point. You gained an enormous amount of support and awareness from the public this time around. Something that has been missing in past labour actions. Please don’t give up. This ongoing court action has to be settled eventually, and I believe it will be settled in the teacher’s favour. This in turn will translate into better conditions in which to educate the children of our province.

  8. Colin

    I agree with all of your points, Ashley but public school teachers are not well-versed in the art of politicking. This past strike has been a significant burden on not only our schools but also our communities- and here’s the funny thing; the government is prepared to ride it out. So, we need to ask ourselves, will the same (clearly ineffective) methods we’ve been employing to enact change make any more positive differences this round? I doubt it. I’m not sure how we can expect to do the same thing over and over and get different results.

    I suggest we learn how to be a little more pragmatic and a little less fickle.

  9. Alain

    Our tactics aside, as Ashley mentioned there is only so much teachers can do to get our message across that every kid truly does count as an awesome person. As much as our support grew, the people of this province need to deep six the societal complacency that has grown over the years. We can’t expect a province that allowed the BC Liberals to get elected three times in a row to rise up in support of the teachers as soon as we go out on the line. Of course we’d fight this value war all the way, but not if enough people don’t yet realize what’s at stake. Ashley’s list of what has been gained from this makes me feel like this has DEFINITELY been worth it, because it has shown the public how important public education is to us, and that some things money cannot buy. So proud of my colleagues, province-wide!

  10. david

    As a teacher, I voted against the job actions. I felt that teachers were correct morally and legally but the tactics and the timing was all wrong. The government came prepared for an all out war whilst the teacher’s union came ready for a game of badminton and were surprised when the government showed complete disdain for report cards, exam prep, exams and negotiating during the summer.
    Most of the influential makers and shakers have their children in private education so were not unduly impacted by the strike.
    I witnessed our local MLA, a former teacher and Minister of Education, dodge questions, speak only from talking points, give long preambles to any answer but rarely answer the questions directed by demonstrating parents, grandparents, students and teachers. And this MLA whilst working as a high school teacher had written a letter of complaint to the Minister of Education which eloquently outlined all the same problems with class size and composition. Evidently the Liberal Koolaid tasted real good at Liberal camp.
    It is not over, it could even get uglier.
    Does either side really trust each other now?

  11. karen

    I agree that this contract isn’t stellar and that it is the best we’ve got at this point in time. With the advent of social media, we have been able to make far greater inroads with informing the public about our message than we could back in 2005 when we gave up salary increases to improve student funding. I think the most important thing we can do now is to keep education front and center in social media. We need to keep having these important conversations because we all know main stream media will move on to the next “big thing” and it will be forgotten by many if we don’t make a concerted effort to remind them. My fear is that complacency and apathy will return and we’ll be doing this all over again in six years time.

  12. Les Nerling

    I am also voting yes, also not because this is THE agreement we deserve, but we can move on and fight the bigger battle. My hope is that Christy will still be in power when the final ruling comes down so she is forced to reconcile this atrocity. And if a fine is levied against government as in ruling #2, I’d like to propose that it be paid out of Liberal Party coffers, not “government funds”. Why should tax payers absorb the fine? Nothing would send a message like Clarke and Fassbender bankrupting the Liberal Party over their blatant and illegal pillaging of public education. To close, I am so proud of my colleagues for sticking together (99.4%) and taking a stand. Even though the agreement comes short, I’m buoyed and resolved to continue taking a stand. Thanks Ashley for succinct words and reminding us of values.