As some of you may have heard, teachers are headed to the polls this week, taking yet another strike vote. And we’re not allowed to talk about why we’re doing it, what has pushed us to this point. The union and the employer (essentially the BC government) have signed an agreement saying that neither party will talk to the public regarding the terms at the table.
So, no, I can’t tell you what the BCTF is asking for, aside from directing you to A Fair Deal.
What isn’t there, of course, is what the employer is asking us to give up. The concessions they’ve tabled. Which I can’t talk about. But you’ll have to trust me: it’s really not a good situation.
So, to the polls, where teachers need to vote to either support for the union, or not. And here’s where things get sticky. Because I don’t always agree with what the BCTF brings to negotiations, or with the advertising they put out, or with the priorities they set. As such, being asked to state my allegiance to my union’s methods has been, at times, difficult.
And I was really dreading another strike vote, asking me to do the same thing. Until a colleague put it quite simply: we have to choose between two sides. We can’t avoid that. So let’s look at our options:
One group has twice been told by the courts that they’ve broken the law and trampled the rights of thousands of citizens. They have disrespected students and teachers by filing yet another appeal against learning and working conditions. The other group is trying to fight for my rights as Canadian and as a worker. They’re trying to do what’s best for me, even if I don’t always agree with them.
As a member of the BCTF, it’s really not even a choice when I think about it that way.
So, for those of you who are frustrated by the ongoing labour struggle between the BCTF and the Province, here are some simplified versions of the “sides,” should you be looking to choose:
Have a kid?
The government is saying that students who need learning support can’t have guaranteed access to it. They’re saying that overcrowded classrooms and a lack of personal attention are okay. They’re saying that the people to whom you entrust your children each day aren’t worth a cost of living increase to offset inflation.
The teachers are saying that students should have access to the support that they need in order to have the best chance of success. They’re saying that students deserve a learning environment that helps their education, not hinders it. They’re saying that they’re employees, and taxpayers, who face the same MSP, natural gas, ICBC, etc. rate increases as anyone else in the province.
Don’t have a kid?
The government is saying that they’re above the law, and they’re spending your tax dollars to again try to convince the courts of this. They haven’t disclosed how much money they’re spent fighting teachers, refusing to acknowledge that teachers are employees with rights. They’re saying that they’re trying to create jobs in BC, while they’ve actually eliminated thousands of education jobs in the past decade. They’re saying that they don’t care about the social and intellectual development of the young people in our province, or what they’ll be like as your colleagues later.
The teachers are saying that the government is bound by the same laws as the rest of us. They’re saying that the government should be putting your tax dollars into educating a younger generation – into raising smart, capable young people who will one-day work for/with you – instead of pouring money into court battles. They’re saying that many potential colleagues are unemployed because jobs have been cut. They’re saying that they’re regular folks and taxpayers, themselves. They need to pay rising bills, just like you do – but they don’t have the option of leaving to work for another company who will treat them better.
So, while I admit a bias where all of this is concerned, my bias isn’t from a purely unionist standpoint. I’m biased as a taxpaying Canadian who believes in the rights of citizens, the rule of law, and the protection of vulnerable members of our society.
But I need to choose a side. You may not have to. But if you do decide to choose between two “evils,” make sure you know which you’re picking.