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.

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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.

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Do something to stop it!  Demand the government accept binding arbitration!

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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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allegory of the rich man and his gardener June 21, 2014

Filed under: anecdotes,Commentary,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

An allegory:

Chris has the most beautiful garden in the city.  He has a gardener who has been working on it for years, carefully cultivating special plants, and creating special features that are the envy of people who come from all over the world to admire the garden.  The gardener is paid a fair salary for his expertise and years of training, so he is happy.

Years pass.  The gardener hasn’t had a raise in years, and things are getting more expensive.  Gas for his car now costs double what it did when he started working.

Chris asks the gardener to put in a fancy water feature, and several fruit trees. “I’ll cover the bill when rents are paid,” he says.  That’s fine, the gardener makes a good wage, and he loves the garden.

Chris goes around to his tenants to collect the rents.  To the small houses, he says, “The view improved now the neighbour’s tree is down.  You owe more.”

To the really huge houses, he says, “Never mind. You don’t have to pay your rent.”

Then he pays all his bills, but because he didn’t make the big houses pay their rent, he doesn’t have enough to pay the gardener all he’s owed.

Chris tells the gardener he still expects the fancy water feature and the fruit trees, as well as the lawn to be mowed, the beds weeded, and the shrubs pruned.

The gardener loves his garden: the new water feature is going to be stunning when he’s finished with it, and the fruit trees are amazing, blooming gloriously, but some fungus is creeping onto the petals, and then insects are bothering the fruit.  He can’t quite figure out how to stop that, but he’s read about a great fungicide that should work.  He just needs to test to see exactly what the problem is.

“I don’t have any extra money for this!” Chris declares.  “I pay you enough!  Your demands are ridiculous!”

The gardener wants his garden to be perfect, so he does his best, working in the evenings and bringing things from home.  He can’t afford to subsidize the proper fertilizer, tests, and fungicide, and when the mower runs out of gas, he can’t get more fuel  since he no longer can afford a car himself, so he can’t drive to get some.  He asks for an increase in his wages, and a budget that covers the demands Chris as made.

“This is not in line with what other gardeners are paid!” Chris shouts, though the gardener knows he is not asking for anything more than every other gardener in the city gets for the same kind of garden.

He begs Chris to please provide him with the budget necessary to do what he’s been asked, but Chris glowers and tells the gardener he’s being greedy and lazy.

The gardener tries repeatedly, feeling guilty about the way the fruit trees are dying, and he is frustrated because he knows if he could just get the proper funding for what is required, he could produce the kind of show garden Chris he wants.

With so much work, no extra staff, no supplies and not enough money to buy them, the garden inevitably falls into ruin.

“What a terrible gardener!” Chris says.  “I’m going to take back pay because he’s not working hard enough!”

“What a terrible gardener!” his golf club cronies in their rent free big houses agree, adding.  “It’s so hard to get good help cheaply any more.” Then they shout, “FORE!” as their golf ball sails over the artificial turf and the plastic flowers of their golf course.

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In case you missed it:

Chris is Premier Christy Clark, the garden is the education system, and the gardener is the teachers.

 

 

poem- cat woman May 26, 2014

She slashed him.

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Pain scratched and yowled around his brain,

longing for palliation.

He saw compassion and affection in your eyes

wrapped his hands across your neck and

in the explosion of  agonized ecstasy,

you choked down his hurt.

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She twitched her fingers.

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With his backward gaze,

he saw anguish curling lithely behind your eyes.

You saw his pitying relief, even as his pain

purred so loudly in your head

it blocked the words

he should have said.

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This one is for Amber

 

 
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