The B.C. teachers strike has captured the nation’s attention because it confirms what others have long felt: our province is a little crazy.
Sure, Toronto has Rob Ford, but we have our Bountiful polygamists, our naked Wreck Beach vendors and, now, a battle reminiscent of the feud in Huckleberry Finn between the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. In the novel, a boy explains to Huck how the feud will play out: “By and by, everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud.”
In the current B.C. feud, all the teachers may soon be bankrupted and, by and by, there’s no more feud.
The education minister says he’s holding the line on public-sector settlements. That may be true, but so is the fact that schools have been closed for over three months to half a million kids – some of whom are at risk, some of whom depend on school meal programs.
The BCTF is now shifting position by calling for binding arbitration, reducing its demands by hundreds of millions and taking references to the court case over learning and working conditions off the table.
Yet the stalemate remains.
Like the aged boxers in the film Grudge Match, Education Minister Peter Fassbender and union leader Jim Iker continue to senselessly beat the hell out of each other. Like all fights, it has stopped being about who is right but who is left – left with any credibility.
The minister said six months ago that “B.C. has one of the best education systems in the world,” but no one would say this today. The BCTF leader says the strike is for better public education, but when two-teacher families lose $20,000 and students are barred from school friends, teams and classroom life, this isn’t better – except for private schools, which are ready to write Fassbender and Iker a cheque.
Fault clearly lies with both parties.
The BCTF has long been a front for the NDP and labour organizations and spends millions at election time to discredit the BC Liberal party and bite the hand that feeds its members. I pay $2,000 yearly in union dues to have my financial interests protected, not gambled away.
The Liberal government has said repeatedly it seeks a negotiated solution, but docked 10 per cent of teachers’ salaries weeks before schools were even closed. Fassbender has not moved an inch in months, and was largely unavailable through the summer.
The government is also gambling by thinking a protracted strike will break the BCTF. What they are not considering is the effect this will have on schools once the feud is over, for 40,000 teachers are not going to roll over. The aftermath of the strike may prove as harmful to students, with spiritless schools and the cancellation of extracurricular activities, field trips and after-school tutoring.
Jim McMurtry, Surrey
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Why do we have teachers determining class size and education budgets?
Isn’t that, in effect, their objective in this strike? Class sizes and wage contracts and demands?
Isn’t that the mandate of governing bodies, such as the provincial government and the school board? Don’t we elect these leaders to represent us in managing our children’s education requirements?
Consider that if our governing representatives are failing us, we can fire them and elect those who will represent us according to our will.
We give the government the power to allocate taxpayer money. Budgets are supposed to be fiscally responsible and taxpayer funds need to be divided in an equitable way.
Unions obviously have had their value, particularly in the private sector. They have proven to represent and help members that were being abused financially and in the workplace. But why do we sanction the power of such organizations in the public sector?
B.C. has had a history of public-sector unrest. Is this more because union members are being abused or is it more a reflection of the power of those unions in our province?
I think the government needs to take a stand. The teachers are wrong here. Look at the damage this strike is having on education. The only way the teachers can improve our kids’ education is in the classroom.
So what if teachers’ wages don’t compare to other provinces? If the strike is not about money, then leave the other issues for our governments to sort out. But if this strike is truly about money, then please stop trying to manipulate our emotional connection to our kids by saying “this strike is for the kids.”
Guy Shaddock, Surrey
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I have a solution for parents of young children who are having a difficult time finding daycare during the public teachers’ strike.
Take your kids to a pub.
Thanks to the BC Liberal government, who are at least partly responsible for this situation, people can now take their children into drinking establishments and, thanks also to the Liberals, said drinking establishments can now offer “happy hour” – more booze for less money.
So, drop your kids off at your local neighbourhood pub, collect your $40 per child per day and use some of it to buy all those inebriated “unlicensed caregivers” even more drinks. Then enter “Cock and Bull Pub and Daycare” into the appropriate line when declaring your daily $40 from our most generous – with taxpayers’ money – government.
Jerry Steinberg, Surrey