Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

commentary- BC government extortion & Orwellian life September 7, 2014

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!

.

PS.

Another literary reference is probably appropriate here.  Have you read Dicken’s Bleak House?   There are some unfortunate similarities to that story, as well.

PS2

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:

http://www.shawnbird.com/poem-pudding-on-the-premier

 

Here is a really great blog post explaining the issue of class size and composition:

http://30daysofautism.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/i-am-a-greedy-teacher-bctf-bced/

 Here is a lawyer’s explanation of E80 and why the BCTF is right to demand it be removed prior to binding arbitration:

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2014/09/09/e80-what-lawyer-joel-bakan-has-to-say/

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47 Responses to “commentary- BC government extortion & Orwellian life”

  1. alazscar Says:

    wonderful, concise summary of what is clearly wrong in this educational system……

  2. howardat58 Says:

    Are there any answers to why they are doing this? Do gates and Pearson have their sticky fingers in there somewhere? Do they want to have these “wonderful” charter schools?
    I don’t want the answer, but Canadians should.

    Ask your followers to post a link to this (you probably have done).

    Keep fighting. This behaviour, in various ways, is spreading world wide- very worrying.

  3. beenough Says:

    Reblogged this on "Be" ENOUGH and commented:
    I resonate… One day I will be brave enough to share why I no longer work as a teacher in the public school system.

    Until now this woman of words says it all. Thank you!

  4. Linda NTreen Says:

    Great post. What this government is doing is despicable. I don’t think they counted on the public support for teachers to this extent. This tide can certainly turn if it drags out…parents will be desperate, and the plan of starving out the teachers will grow in force. The only way to stop this is a General Strike.

    • I have been saying that since JUne. I also think if citizens make a concerted effort to demand the government go to binding arbitration they may recognize the political value in doing so. But… they have 3 years in their mandate and a secure majority.

      Several recall campaigns are starting up in close ridings, like Fassbender. He only won by 200 votes. If they are in a minority position, the game changes.

  5. It seems that there is almost an international jihad about teachers. We seem to be considered as slaves instead of trained professionals who know more about teaching young minds than any politician or business nabob or theorist administrator who insist on running the show. The inmates are running the asylum. The brunt of taxes falls on the middle class. If you eliminate them, then only the rich will be paying all the taxes that they cannot wriggle out of paying. What are they thinking?

    • In our town, the school district is the largest employer. Economic activity is down significantly because teachers aren’t contributing to the economy because of this government, which claims to be committed to small business. When I’m window shopping, I make a point of telling shop owners, “I’d be buying this item, but I can’t because the Premier has my pay cheque. You should tell your MLA you want them to solve this.”

      • Freya Says:

        The premier doesn’t even have your cheque; she has given it to parents for daycare…

      • Indeed. First installment of the voucher system, as modelled by Tennessee.

        It is fascinating to me how this works (in the same way looking at a gruesome injury is fascinating). Canada has a Top 5 Education system according to PISA, and BC is (one of) the highest provinces in Canada. Tennessee is one of the worst states in the US, and the US ranks some 20 levels below Canada. WHY would we look there for education advice in ANY form?

        Very scary.

  6. Colin Bailey Says:

    Great entry, Shawn. The only quibble I have is with your “thief” analogy as the government actually didn’t appeal the first court ruling. Instead, it introduced and passed legislation almost identical to what it did the first time around.

    Thanks for weighing in!

  7. Lesley Says:

    As a counsellor I defend the right of all children to have equal opportunity to benefit from quality education, and the only way to achieve that is to adequately fund the system, including all the support people who are needed to help classroom teachers to their jobs.

  8. Beyond Hope Says:

    How did the September 23rd day come to be as part of your prediction?

  9. Gayle Shaw Says:

    GREAT explanation! Particularly about what the Govt.considers to be “benefits”.The public who have not been following this closely,probably aren’t aware of this—just what the govt. wants.My daughter is a teacher,so I’ve been trying to keep informed.

  10. Ally Says:

    Thank you for such a clear and concise explanation as to what is happening to our education system! I find it very frustrating to hear the horrendous misinformation being spewed from the mouth of this government, and even more so when people accept it at face value without finding out the facts. Thank you for standing up for our children and holding the line!

    • My pleasure, Ally. I wish I didn’t have to, to be honest. I wish our government was being honest with the electorate, but with 3 years to their mandate, they feel pretty safe to do whatever they want.

  11. Lovely to read- thanks for laying out all these points. I agree we are living in scary times right now and I truly hope that everyone will rise up and not let this continue. Keep writing and keep fighting.

  12. LiterateOWL Says:

    Reblogged this on LiterateOwl and commented:
    Brilliant…. Thx
    “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?” (Bird)

  13. Lorien Says:

    Dear Shawn, I wish for everyone to wake up and get their priorities straight. I wish for you to receive just compensation, and for your schools to receive the funding needed to get everyone back on track. I admire you for fighting the good fight, and I appreciate you for educating us about the state of affairs. Thank you for your courage and tenacity. Thank you for leading by example.

  14. […] I read the words of a courageous teacher-poet seeking justice in BC, A kind soul who writes love notes to herself and therefore to everyone, A […]

  15. Bryan Says:

    Thank you for this clear explanation of what is really going on. I only wish that EVERY citizen of our province could and would, read it. This government is very scary indeed. Black is not white, no matter how many times they tell us that it is.

  16. Brenda Says:

    Yes..Thankyou for this. This is the first thing I read that actually explained this mess to me.

  17. Erica Says:

    Keep fighting, teachers . Hold the line.

  18. Ugh. It’s so depressing I stopped reading in the middle.
    Makes me want to quit teaching.

    • lol

      No surprises here for a teacher or current parents, but non-teachers, or folks who remember the pre-2002 system have not a clue about the current reality and that we’re battling a government that is trying to get out of a Supreme Court decision by forcing E80. Some people foolishly trust this government to be telling them the truth.

      • I don’t live in BC, so I don’t know the exact details of what you’re referring to.
        What I do know is that this is a global problem, not unique to BC, and that teachers all over are fighting the same battles, usually with the same depressing results.
        Don’t even ASK what our brilliant Minister of Education has decided.
        It’s awful.
        And it’s even more depressing to see proofs that it’s not a local problem but a global problem.

        You have all my sympathies. I think these decisions should be made by teachers, not government officials.

      • I think government officials need to quit telling the public complete lies, like “We want to bargain” or “Let the courts decide!” when they are completely unwilling to do so. That’s precisely what the Supreme Court claimed they’d done twice previously, and they haven’t done anything differently.

      • Well, the Supreme Court works hand in hand with the government, no?
        I wish the people running things would be more honest and use some common sense.

      • No. Our Supreme Court has TWICE stated that our provincial government has acted unconstitutionally and ordered them to pay damages against the teachers/nurses for illegally ripping up contracts. The government appeals, but eventually the appeal process will end and then they will have to abide by the final decision.

  19. Rajwantbhangu Says:

    BC government and Education system👎

  20. Debra Klock Says:

    This is so much bigger than just the education system. It is about the subversion of the middle class. Government makes deliberate choices to reduce taxes from industry while also reducing the royalties they pay. In order to accommodate this reduction in revenue, they must find it elsewhere. Hence, the systematic impoverishment of middle class social institutions that our society has spent decades building up. Today it is teachers, tomorrow it will be nurses. It’s also legal aid lawyers, home assistants, social service workers and so on. What I don’t understand is how or why people continue to support this drive to “reduce our taxes”. Do they not understand that our taxes pay for these services? A progressive tax system is the way to a vibrant and growing economy. A regressive system like we have now, where industry and the rich (one and the same????) squirrel away their savings, and we wait for it to trickle down is indeed Orwellian. So I as a teacher will continue to walk the picket line and stand up for my charter rights. I think many others in the public are beginning to realize how bad it is, but unfortunately not enough and not quick enough. I don’t know how it will end. I hope our beloved country is not in tatters before we wake up.

  21. Kate Says:

    I have been keen on comparing the plight of BC to dystopias seen in Orwell, Atwood and Huxley to some degree. Bleak House is also an excellent reference! I was also contemplating Gatsby the other day, as it is one of the choices in my AP LIt class. I posted a quote on BC Voters Supporting Public Education, where Nick refers to how Daisy and NIck retreat into their money leaving destruction in their wake and the quote instantly reminded me of the carelessness of these plutocrats. -Kate, EngTeacher Stelly’s


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