Teacher Negotiations August 2014: “The System” Is Not Broken

One more BC Education summer challenge: Let’s have a conversation about K-12 public education in BC without using the exceptionally tired and empty phrase “the system is broken” (Times-Colonist Editorial, August 2). The “system” is collective bargaining, and it is not broken. One of the parties continually refuses to play by the rules of engagement, as ideologically, that party – that would be the current government of British Columbia – has zero interest in recognizing unionized workers or collective bargaining, and is doing everything it can do ensure a workers’ race to the bottom when unions are dismantled and workers are forced to undersell themselves to get even precarious employment.

The Ministry of Education is hanging on to an “opt-out clause” that says that either party can opt out of the coming court judgment on the government’s appeal of Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin’s restoration of class size and composition language illegally stripped from the teachers’ contracts in 2001 by then-Education Minister Christy Clark. This opt out clause looks like equality for both parties but it’s clear who is going to lose in the appeal: Since 2001 BC courts have found this government to have broken the law in regard to teachers’ contracts three times, with the government ignoring those judgments. This government can afford to wait out long court fights and file appeal after appeal, while in the interim unilaterally imposing expedient legislation. In 2002 Christy Clark brought in Bill 28 (only one example of such legislation) the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, which the BCTF fought in court for years, with several sections finally struck down in 2011 by the BC Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Who else could get away with carrying on with no consequence after being found in contravention of the law three times by BC high courts? ? If you and I break the law we are called “criminals”.

It is on public record that the strategy of this government has been to provoke the BCTF into striking, not to come to collective bargaining in good faith.

It’s clear now if it wasn’t before that this government has applied essential services legislation to K-12 public education in British Columbia not because they think it is essential – obviously, education isn’t essential for the coming September as the obvious objective is to turn the populace against the BCTF, so privatized education will step into the void. If handing over $40 per child per day of public tax dollars marked for education is so easy, wait for the per pupil grant of $6900 to be handed over, and kiss public education in BC goodbye.

Christy Clark’s dream of user-pay stealth taxes for everything and a society devoid of social goods after cutting taxes drastically though the early 2000s, is on the cusp of realization. Taking down the BCTF has always been critical to achieve this, as a fully funded public education has always been a centrepiece of a democratic society that values principles of social justice.

We have a fundamentally broken provincial government, not a “broken system”.

  • Published in Victoria Times Colonist August 10, 2014.
  • School Trustee on the Board of Education of School District 61 Greater Victoria since January 2012. Retired from teaching June  2011 after 35 years in classrooms as a member of  ATA, CUPE, and BCTF (plus 5 years TTOC).
  • Graduated with  B.Ed from the University of Victoria, MBA from Royal Roads University, 5 year French Language and Literature Diploma University of Victoria.

About Diane McNally