I am not a political person.
I voted conservative most of my life. I have never canvassed for a political party. I have never held any union position, even something as innocuous as shop steward.
I write a daily blog of POETRY, not political commentary.
I believe in a ‘live and let live’ attitude about most things, but I have voted every election since I was old enough. I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously. I try to be educated about my opinions. I seek information from those who know what’s going on. I don’t trust the news to tell me the whole truth. I am living in an Orwellian world these days where politicians and some news stories are making declarations completely opposite to what I know is true. Because I am a BC teacher, I live in an alternate reality to the one the government describes.
Calling a black cat white does not change the fact that it is a black cat!
Here’s what I know.
After then Minister of Education Christy Clark ripped up contracts with BC teachers in 2002, I watched money leak out of our schools. We haven’t been able to replace text books. Our rooms don’t get cleaned thoroughly because custodial time is the bare minimum. I’ve seen libraries closed, until to be full time a librarian must work at 3+ schools. I’ve seen arts education cut. I’ve seen learning disabled kids unable to be diagnosed because there isn’t funding for it. I’ve seen needy kids partnered with kids who have a designation so that a Education assistant can help several of them together when they each need one on one help. I’ve seen buildings and equipment falling into disrepair. I’ve seen copying budgets run out months before the end of the year. I’ve seen teachers feed kids. I’ve seen parents and local corporations donate food to kids who would otherwise not have breakfast or lunch. I’ve spent a fortune on supplies for my class room- supplies that I can not deduct from my taxes like other professionals can.
The BC Liberal government announces that they’ve ‘increased funding to school districts’ and on paper that’s true, except they’ve also required districts to pay millions of dollars from their budgets, for things that the government previously funded separately. Money that used to go to students now pays for earthquake proofing and the like. Hydro has gone up. Gas has gone up. But the allowance to pay for them hasn’t.
During the strike the government announced that teachers are demanding triple the benefits of any other group. Such doublespeak! They don’t tell the public that what they call ‘benefits’ in that statement refers to ‘everything that isn’t wages’. In other words, things like class size and composition funding, support staff like teacher assistants, and non-enrolling teachers like librarians and counsellors. These are not benefits! Those are properly staffed and funded schools! Does a doctor call his nurse, receptionist, and stethoscope ‘benefits’? The public, of course, imagines ‘benefits’ are simply extended health and dental and so believes the government lie that teachers are greedy.
We’re not. We’ve taken YEARS of zero, zero, zero on wage increases. At 2.3% inflation, we’ve been losing money every year. Our current offer is also less than inflation. We’re not unreasonable. Our extended health benefits are not even slightly out of line with other public sector groups. All those contracts are available on line if you want to investigate.
Think about it. Would you give up thousands in wages to stand on a picket line in the rain for a few hundred dollars worth of benefits?
We wouldn’t either.
This is so much bigger than that. The government is trying to distract you with sound bytes. The only folks after unlimited massages are the government as they massage the truth. Their misrepresentations and bald faced lies definitely seem unlimited!
One thing is holding up the settlement:
Twice the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC Liberal government bargained in bad faith when they ripped up the contract in 2002. They were ordered to pay a settlement and court costs. They don’t want to. They’d prefer to spend millions of our tax dollars appealing the judgement. Honestly, they did not expect to still be in power by the time this worked its way through the courts, so they were sure it’d be another government’s problem. They were wrong. Here it is, and (God help us) they’re still in power. They don’t want to pay the settlement they’ve been ordered to pay twice. That is the infamous clause E80 that the BCTF will not accept.
Imagine for a moment:
Thieves break into your home and steal, let’s just say, 2 billion dollars.
You know who they are.
You take them to court.
The court says, “Give back that money, and pay him the court costs!”
(Imagine a box full of money that belongs to you, just sitting there in front of the judge).
The thieves say, “Ha! Can’t make me!” and appeal.
They lose again. The court says “Give him his money!”
They appeal again.
Your money is still sitting in that box. You don’t have it yet, but the final judgement is close. You need that money. It’s expensive taking rich thieves to court. Your house needs some work done, because while you’ve been busy with court, the thieves have been sneaking by to break your windows, dig up your flower beds, and scrawl graffiti about how greedy you are across your front door.
The thieves know that the next time, the judge is going to say the same thing that’s been said before. So they say, “We’ll make you a deal. It’s very generous! We’ll take this box and give you $75 million in exchange!”
What would you say?
I would say, “Let the courts decide.”
And I would actually MEAN “let the courts decide,’ unlike Mr. Fassbender.
The BCTF requested binding arbitration because contrary to what Fassbender says in his media moments, this government does not want to negotiate. What they call ‘negotiation’ is really extortion. They want that upcoming court settlement nullified and they are willing to leave teachers on the picket line until it happens. Rumour has it, “Let them starve!” was heard to be the plan. They will tell the public they want to ‘negotiate’ and that they want to ‘let the courts decide’ but those terms mean very different things to this government. It’s Orwellian double speak of the first order. The BC Liberal government is holding your kids hostage because they don’t want to face the consequences of their violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Think about that.
Justice Griffin in her decision last February pointed to the government that you can’t claim to be negotiating if one side refuses to move. Nothing has changed. This government is still bargaining in bad faith.
The BC government seems to have an agenda to destroy public education. They’re holding the kids of this province hostage by refusing an impartial arbitrator to settle the deal. They know that an arbitrator will be objective, and that will not go well for them. An arbitrator will see through their doublespeak.
You should care about this. When a government thinks that it is above the law, and that it is immune from respecting the citizens’ basic rights, no one is safe. The middle class is at risk. Democracy is at risk. BC public education is at risk.
This sounds ridiculous. But think.
When the government orders MLAs to close their office doors, because it’s dangerous to speak to the public, what is it afraid of? When MLAs are ordered not to speak to constituents about education issues, is the leadership afraid that if individual MLAs hear the other side of the story, they will disagree with what leadership is ordering them to do? Their JOB is to listen to you! They are paid (starting wage!) $101,859 to listen to constituents. One hundred thousand dollars! And they are not listening. (Let’s deduct 10% a day because they’re not doing their jobs, shall we? cough)
Write your MLA. Write Premier Clark. Write Minister Fassbender.
Demand that they settle this strike by accepting neutral arbitration.
If you don’t?
Well. I’ll be Nostradamus for a moment:
If the government doesn’t accept arbitration, I predict that sometime around September 23rd, an announcement will be made that the teachers are so intransigent that it is impossible to work with them and that the government is saving the day by bringing in a whole new system.
One that further widens the gulf between rich and poor communities.
One that destroys the middle class.
One that will change life as you know it.
You should be afraid.
Do something to stop it! Demand the government accept binding arbitration!
Another literary reference is probably appropriate here. Have you read Dicken’s Bleak House? There are some unfortunate similarities to that story, as well.
The BCTF is not a ‘whipped organization’ like the BC Liberals. We are free to meet with whomever we like. We are free to voice our own opinions. This commentary is my opinion as a BC teacher, and a BCTF member. The BCTF does not hire professional unionists to govern our union. We are all teachers. We don’t hire ‘image consultants’ for our leader (that is probably obvious). ;-) Our leadership learn to serve by serving. This may be a disadvantage against professional union-busters hired by government, but it means we are genuine, caring professionals, not slick polished shells with dubious motives.
I receive no compensation for this blog. (Any ads you see pay Wordpress).
Paid Liberal social media trolls are not welcome to comment here. Seekers of truth are invited to do so.
And just because this is so stinking depressing, I suggest you now go read this poem:
Here is a really great blog post explaining the issue of class size and composition:
Here is a lawyer’s explanation of E80 and why the BCTF is right to demand it be removed prior to binding arbitration: