Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bargaining in jeopardy

Well, Vince Ready was appointed as a mediator in this dispute. There seemed to be some hope that maybe, just maybe there might be some bargaining happening sometime soon. Last night, the BCTF bargaining committee, with a number of concessions, brought an offer to the table, only to be shot down - AGAIN - by the government. Mr. Ready says that the two sides are still too far apart to negotiate a settlement, and talks have stalled. All he's coming back with from talking to the government is more of the same thing we've been hearing for the last sixteen months: NO!

My concern is that, even if we negotiate a settlement this time, what's going to happen next time? Is the government going to take a "never again" stance to bargaining? Why are they SO bent on taking taking away bargaining rights from unions and acting in such bad faith?

Teachers, for the most part (and yes, there are some exeptions) are generally a fairly altruistic bunch. When we bargain for working and learning conditions, we always have the student's best interests in mind. There may occasionally be requests for salary increases included in that, which is perfectly acceptable. But salary increases have never come instead of improved conditions for kids. In fact, it's been the opposite. Time and time again, teachers have given up a salary increase in exchange for better learning conditions for students. Back in 2002, the government took learning conditions out of the contract and then made it illegal to bargain for them. For a government who says that they care about education, they are not showing it.

They come up with all kinds of ideas that might sound good, like the "Learning Roundtable" and the "Teachers Congress." They say that the roundtable is a place where all parties - teachers, administrators, school boards, and government - can come and talk about issues in education. However, there are no guarantees at that table. Given this government's track record, we need things like learning conditions locked into a contract in order to ensure that tehy stay protected. And the "Teacher's Congress?" This is an annual meeting where "teachers have a chance to talk directly with the government." What do you think we're trying to do right now??? This is not a government who listens to teachers now, what will be different then?

On another note, news stations today are talking about how parents are beginning to look at alternate education systems for their children. "Private school" and "homeschooling" are getting much more attention these days. With conditions worsening in public schools - larger classes, less support, underfunding, etc - people are getting concerned. Many people are opting for private schools. Great, for those who can afford it. What about those who can't? Slowly we're beginning to see privitization of the public school system, where the wealthy can afford to choose, and the rest are left with worsening conditions due to underfunding. It doesn't have to be like that. Schools are full of extremely talented, caring, motivated techers who simply cannot do the job they are capable of doing, but who still, somehow, continue to do an excellent job with less and less and less.

It's time to get a contract that addresses learning conditions and shows some respect for bargaining rights. Let's get talking. I miss my students and want to get back to work.

14 Comments:

Blogger Josef said...

Hilary;

I hear ye on the roundtable to some extent. As you may know, in King County, WA, USA we had a Task Force that recommended a "turnaround team" for our broken elections department. A month to go - no turnaround team. What's really needed is legal but strident constructive pressure - and reaching out to make the roundtable work.

But as far as the private schools and stuff - as their children/your students are denied access to public schools, by your illegal strike and the overraught government so determined to hold the line for taxpayers (or for their ideology), the free market and basic human instinct dictates parents and elder siblings will seek alternatives. This is called the free market, as Peaktalk would say.

Oh and in a truly free market, highly skilled teachers would be paid more than teachers who weren't. Some call this merit pay, I hope you call w/ me this common sense. I would like to assume that although we agree to disagree, I could feel safe putting my children in your capable hands.

Please pardon my thinking out loud. This is my form of a coffee break.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Hillary said...

There is some form of salary compensation for more experienced teachers. Teachers with a master's get paid more, and each year of experience adds a little more to a teacher's salary, to a certain level. Teachers top out after 10 years.

Merit pay is a really tricky thing to do in teaching. How would it be figured out? By test scores? That's certainly not a fair way to determine a teacher's merit. I'll have to collect my thoughts on the merit pay issue, and perhaps post on it later. For now, Erin has an excellent post about merit pay here.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Hillary said...

Rather, the post is an analogy about rating teachers, and it could be extended to include how merit pay is determined.

Kinda reminds me of the Fraser Institute's "School Report Cards." Now that's a whole other rant...

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Pieter said...

Hilary,

Here’s Pieter from Peaktalk. First, I enjoy your well-written blog although I disagree with most of your points.

Merit pay, school vouchers, deregulation, these are all great ideas whose time has come, but it will be hard to implement them. I read somewhere this week that the British government is looking into a number of options. Note that in my native Holland there are a variety of different schools (religious etc.) that are all government funded.

The problem here in BC is that education is far too centralized, and we have a dogmatic union that claims to speak on behalf of all of its members, is driving its membership dues to one political party and is not beyond intimidating teachers who on moral or purely financial grounds have to get back to work and rightly chose to cross a picket line. Only this morning I got a sampling of such stories from someone in North Van, which apparently is fairly hardline district when it comes to union power.

That to me is the deeper issue in all of this. The closed shop union laws that force someone to join, force someone to pay dues and force them to abide by top-down decisions from some fairly militant leaders is no longer acceptable in 2005, if it ever was. Maybe we should move to a regional system where unions no longer play a role and where independent teacher’s associations (together with parents and local government) can formulate targets, goals etc. BC should look to other jurisdictions where this is being tried.

What can and never should happen is what we’re seeing today: children held hostage by a politically motivated group who can now illegally shut down an entire school system for two weeks. No democracy and no parent can and should tolerate that and no kid should be faced with that.

That brings me to my question: how are teachers’ going to explain all of this to the children once school reopens without politicizing the issue?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Hillary said...

Quick note to commenters, please note the correct spelling of my name: Hillary (two L's) No need to respond. Thanks!

3:13 PM  
Blogger stillwaters said...

Good luck with this movement. I support the teachers. The government must back off and apologize for their divisive and condescending behaviour and remarks in the past.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Hillary;

First apologies on misspelling your name. Eyes going bad, I suppose.

Second, how do you respond to the multiple class action lawsuits filed against the BCTF by parents and other taxpayers?

Josef

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Nollind Whachell said...

Josef and Pieter, please go back and reread the previous comments we made on these issues you mentioned. They have been covered before. Here's some of the highlights of those previous comments.

Round table? It takes two to tango.

Illegal strike? Illegally made strike.

Highly Skilled Teachers? Years of university you can't even imagine.

No unions? Let's kick the teachers out of the province then.

The real issue? The long term deterioration of the education system and the long term effects of it on the children of BC.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Nollind Whachell said...

"Second, how do you respond to the multiple class action lawsuits filed against the BCTF by parents and other taxpayers?"

Josef, they are doing a great job if their goal is to make people quit the teaching profession.

I also have to laugh at the absurdity of this though. Kind of like risking your life to pull a person from a burning car and they sue you for injuring their wrist when you pull them out. Probably why more and more people could care less anymore in the world today.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Nollind, as to your last post, I'm going to respond as somebody who works on a contractual IT consultant basis w/ a class action law firm and knows some people who work in one:

The underpinning logic behind the taxpayers' retaliation litigation is this: They pay for a service - namely public education. Labour strife and a strike declared illegal by your Supreme Court denies the taxpayers' the service. Hence the law says they can recover damages incurred by strike and they join in litigation to sue the BCTF.

The judiciary will look at your actions versus the law, rather than pass a value judgment on the law itself as you wish the judiciary would. The judiciary will also look at the damages incurred from disobeying the law onto the plaintiffs (namely the parents) - as if you had a DUI.

The judiciary will then note that things of coin (to use Sara's word on CKNW) was taken by an illegal act from the taxpaying litigants. Therefore, the odds are very good the BCTF - and possibly individual teachers - will have to reimburse the plaintiffs.

Of course, there could be a settlement but I doubt seriously the BCTF is the kind to say "sorry" or instruct their lawyers to negotiate a pre-trial settlement.

Incurred expenses from this litigation could break the BCTF more than what you allege are Premier Campbell's wildest dreams.

I cannot stress enough that your (and somewhat my mutual) value judgment of the law does not matter and will not matter in this litigation. There was a place for that - and that was to immediately challenge Bill 12 (with albeit all its demerits) in the Supreme Court. You choose to strike and roll the dice.

I would doubt seriously the litigation could come out good for the BCTF and I agree - you want to privatize (or at least deunionize) public schools, the above is the manual: Break the BCTF checkbook. Note how this is the act of patriotic taxpaying citizens, not big business and not the government. Tomorrow, Supreme Court Justice Brown could fine the BCTF royally or do something unorthodox again.

At least somebody was kind enough to tell you so from the front lines of class action litigation.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Hillary;

I hope you read my last comment. I will actually stop being so agnostic and say a prayer for you. I know what's coming... and I wish this wasn't necessary.

This is close to a war and class action litigation doesn't pass moral judgments on stupid laws.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Ready recommendations - the actual ones.

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Nollind Whachell said...

Josef, so you're basically saying the person I pull and save from the burning fire has every right to sue me just because the law allows them to do so? So as my lawyer / consultant, you're telling me to not help these people in these situations in future because it may cause a lawsuit against me? Best to avoid these lawsuits, therefore avoid trying to help these people? I will repeat what I said before, do YOU not see the absurdity in the situation and how it relates to this strike situation.

The law allows people to do a lot of things but it doesn't mean the law is just and right. Do you know how many criminals are rereleased on the streets everyday because the law says they can be released. Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should. And besides the law isn't some impenetrable noble thing like you make it out to be. Lawyers and judges bend it as much as they can to their will and viewpoint everyday.

And finally if anyone is going to say "sorry" it should hopefully be these parents instigating this class action. Of course for that to happen it would require them to actually realize the absurdity of what they are doing which of course they are not aware of (otherwise why would they do it).

I don't know Josef, the more we talk about this the more absurd this seems to get. And no matter what we talk about or how many times we spin around in circles, I'll still say the government is the source of this mess. They tipped the first domino which caused a chain reaction of events which led to the absurd and frustrating situation we are in today. Therefore, if they don't get in there and start rectifying what they have started, even if only a little, then things will only escalate and get even more absurd from here.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Quote, I think the person pulling B.C. kids from the fire is Vince Ready, unquote.

8:44 AM  

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