EDITORIAL: The future is at stake

Students missing school as result of job action is unacceptable, and the two sides need to come to an agreement.

Students across the province missed a day of school this week – with Surrey and White Rock students home today – thanks to a rotating strike by teachers, as the contract dispute with the provincial government continues.

This is unacceptable for everyone involved: students, parents, teachers, administrators, school districts and the provincial government.

Teachers have legitimate concerns about the makeup of their classes and the extra demands being placed on them by continuing shifts in education policy.

The government, for its part, has significant budgeting challenges, and teachers need to modify their wage demands – currently reported as being a 21.5 per cent increase over four years – significantly.

Most importantly, both sides need to really focus on students, and not just pay lip service to the concept.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association response to the job action is to lock out teachers and cut salaries by 10 per cent. This has done nothing to move the situation closer to a resolution.

Strikes or lockouts – whether for a week, a day or even for a few calculated moments at a time – impact education.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has said there will be other rotating strikes; this is simply unacceptable.

The province agrees that depriving students of an education can not be condoned but is prepared, through the employers’ association, to lock out teachers at the end of the school year; equally unacceptable.

The association has issued a directive that limits student-teacher contact. This is no better.

Education is as essential as it has ever been. The global nature of the economy means that B.C. students will be competing with students from all parts of the world as they leave the school system. They will be competing for spaces in post-secondary institutions and for employment opportunities.

Holding up their progress, for weeks or even months, due to a labour dispute will do immeasurable damage to their prospects. It might mean a difference in career opportunities and choices, restricting their future and ours.

Regardless of the issues being negotiated, representatives from both sides need to compromise far more than they have thus far. Instead, it’s as if both sides are waging a popularity contest and only listening to their own yes-people, leaving our future leaders at risk.

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