Disputes display similarities

Disagreement between NHL owners and players is much like the dispute between the provincial government and B.C. teachers

The newest duel news is between the owners and the National Hockey League players. The old duel news is between the Liberals and the BCTF. The big question here might be: Is there a parallel to be drawn? The answer is: very likely.

Let’s look at what might be termed the similarities, if you will. The team owners and Premier Clark and her cohorts had made ultimatum claims as time passed. With hockey, there was a lockout. The owners gave an ultimatum to acquiesce or there might be no season. With the government and the BCTF, there was a lockout of sorts where teachers temporarily pre-empted services (mini-strike, if you will) and refused to perform certain duties as the government had put forth anti-strike and bargaining legislation. The NHL players demanded a bigger portion of the gross revenues and the bargaining came to a standstill. One would think that the mega-salaries paid and the percentage of the gross revenue paid would have been sufficient, but no, apparently there was more that these “poor players” had to get. I don’t feel sorry for them nor do I feel sorry for the owners who offered many of these players mega-salaries and bonuses etc. Ultimately, we the paying public foot the bill, as usual.

The scene appears to be somewhat similar in the BCTF-government scenario. Sticking to the government’s net-zero mandate, benefit improvements, including extended leave for family illness and bereavement, and salary increases take the place of shrinking class sizes. The BCTF would have us believe that the need is for the students, but is it really? The head of the BCTF, Susan Lambert, recently stated: “A teacher’s first obligation is to their students in the classrooms. We will never, ever abrogate that responsibility and we will always strenuously advocate for a high quality public education system in British Columbia.” Is there some confusion here, or what? Somehow or other, the priorities seem to be skewed.

Overall, the owners of the hockey teams and the NHL players along with the teachers and the government seem to all be on the same page. That page would seem to be: “What’s in it for me?” In the end, when and if the smoke clears, we the hockey enthusiasts and we the parents and friends of students are going to pay. What else is new? The prima donna attitude in all areas needs to go and true reality needs to be paramount.

All of these groups have sat at the bargaining table at one time or another. Most of the time, there was little or no real headway made. Recently, the NHL officials and players met with a proposal by management to hopefully give an “ending in sight scenario.” However, the players didn’t like it and things are back to square one. No end in sight.

Recently the new education minister and Premier Clark announced plans for a “new beginning” in the teacher-government stalemate. Unless there is some re-thinking on the part of government and the teachers, we will have déjà vu. Having been involved in education for 39 years, I had a chance to see many scenarios come and go. Some were fruitful and obviously some were not. I experienced the agony and the ecstasy of government and teacher interaction. I maintain that until all sides, i.e. hockey owners, players, governments and teachers, get a “check up from the neck up” to get rid of the “what’s in it for me issues,” status quo is likely to prevail.

In hockey, the game will suffer, as will those fans who are loyal to it. In education, the students will lose out due to a point of impasse on either side that will directly affect the learning process. The stilted one-sided thinking has to go and realistic thought processes directed to the real learning issues of students must prevail.

The hockey issues don’t look promising as of this point. On the other side of things, Premier Clark and company have put forth an idea along the lines of extending the olive branch to the BCTF, so to speak. My question here might be is this a legitimate gesture, or is it a placating gesture or a voter getting brownie-point manoeuvre because of the poll standings and the upcoming election with the thought of being dethroned? We all know of the track record of the empty promises made by this government. So too, we know the teachers’ track record and it is not one without blemish.

In both scenarios, time will tell. Unless there are attitudinal changes on all sides, dissidence will continue to be the order of the day and hockey fans, parents and students will be the real victims here.

Go Vees Go!

Ron Barillaro

Penticton