Why are many teachers frustrated, even furious? While some tout the greed of teachers and the ‘demands’ we have made in bargaining, I think a closer look at the actions of this government may illustrate why teachers are more than justified in being fed up.
First, in 2002 the Liberal government stripped our negotiated contract, The Supreme Court of B.C. found that action illegal.
That contract stripping is the main reason that school boards around the province are faced with cutting services and support to kids. Okanagan Skaha schools would have 40 or more teachers working with our kids if that contract had not been illegally violated.
Second, we entered bargaining with a government that stated “net zero”, however, not just for salaries, for the total cost of education.
Third, we were declared an essential service by Gordon Campbell, and, after the Labour Relations Board legally defined what we could do as job action, our employer sought to fine us 15 per cent of our pay for that legally defined job action.
Fourth, the government passed Bill 22 which demands that we agree (huh?) to fundamental changes in our contract, further degrades supports for kids, and attempts to ‘fix’ the illegal contract strips of 2002 by returning them and then removing them in the next paragraph. This isn’t just offensive to teachers, but the court has had the Liberals thumb their nose at them as well.
Fifth, the Liberals have selected a mediator, given him a list of items to get teachers to agree to, and he isn’t a mediator, nor is mediation done by one party setting pre-conditions.
Sixth, in the face of over a decade of attacks on our profession and on services and supports for kid’s education, we made the heart-wrenching decision to withdraw from extracurricular and volunteer activities. Our employer’s response was to launch a complaint with the LRB asking the board to order teachers to perform tasks that have been voluntary.
Finally, it is disappointing that a small number of vicious critics have declared that we have withdrawn from activities we adore because we are greedy. It’s a shame that our voices weren’t heard when we railed against the underfunding of education.
I think if you look at the actions of the Liberal government, it’s amazing that teachers have been so patient.
Kevin Epp, president
Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union