British Columbia Teachers Federation Bullying Plight
As an educator working in British Columbia I can’t but help comment on the ongoing conflict between the BCTF and the Government. I’m often in schools enabling administrators and teachers to consider a restorative approach to conflict, and this conflict which is rooted in decisions made almost ten years ago is far from being dealt with in a restorative way.
In fact the BC Liberal Government have repeatedly stolen the power of their teachers, and Bill 22 is the hate mail that the bullies have delivered to the BCTF.
The Government has offered mediation with stipulations. What mediator with any integrity in the discipline of mediation would agree to mediate under these conditions? That could be not impartial. The aim of mediation is to try to come to an agreement that is a win win situation. For that to happen people must at least feel the playing ground is as even as possible. One should walk away from mediation without resentment and feeling that you have been listened too. However the Government imposing stipulations before the process has begun is a recipe for both disaster and likely another ten years of dis-ease.
Teachers feel betrayed. It’s as if their basic charter has been stripped away. Soon they will not be able to strike without being fined $475 a day. And woe betide if you are a union officer, the fine will increase to $2500. The definition of striking is more than refusing to work, it is any collective action authorized by the union. For example if the BCTF ruled that teachers should wear wristbands to school in protest- that could be considered a strike. If teachers continue job action that could also be considered a strike. And then there is the question who is considered a union officer, that is not clear, and naturally teachers are scared. When Bill 22 is in place approximately 41,000 teachers could be at risk if they participate in any collective action. This could culminate with teachers being subpoenaed to court and required to pay a fine.
The public may say: “Fair enough our school kids need their education, they are the ones losing out in this conflict.” Is the public aware that BC is one of the few provinces that gives money into private and independent schools? While at the same time money in public education is being clawed back.
Despite the fact that BC is one of the most expensive provinces to live in; and has some of the lowest wages for teachers in Canada. Many teachers will say: “A pay rise would be great – but that is not the issue we are in conflict about.” Teachers want control of their professional development, fair posting and filling process and a strong public education. They have the good sense to say no to class sizes of thirty or more.
The government has admitted to making $11 million a day when teachers are on strike. Ironically the Government has announced that they will invest the money back into special education. Doesn’t the Government realize that by insisting on classes be as big as thirty they will be part of the cause of requiring more students to go into special education?
It’s not practical for a teacher to safely teach students in such large classes, as so much will go unnoticed. Classes so large will be a breeding ground for bullying, drop outs and delinquency. Many students do not feel safe enough to learn in large groups. Many will go unnoticed and will fail the system.
Sadly this grievance will continue, and more bullying will occur. If the Government could put the needs of the student first, rather than act like they are in a battle with the BCTF, there could be the possibility of a shift in the conflict. Perhaps if the BCTF paid out for a mediator to represent them, rather than representing themselves when going into negotiation there could be the potential of a different outcome. Understandably senior union officials are angry, but anger is not the best ingredient when trying to resolve a long standing conflict. This could have been an opportunity for the Government and the BCTF to do something different. Sadly the conflict will haunt the Government, BCTF, the teachers, and the students. People like me who offer extra curricular service will feel the impact of this down the road, when schools will be crying out for help.