LETTERS: Unique class of negotiation

Readers address the labour dispute between teachers and government of British Columbia.


What is rarely mentioned in comments about the labour unrest between the government of B.C. and the BCTF is that both parties comprise public servants who, in many cases, benefit from wages, life-long fringe benefits and defined benefit pensions.

These compensations are the responsibilities of all taxpayers who may have few or none of the same financial advantages.

If such a situation occurs in a private-sector business, consumers have the option to shop elsewhere. The business runs the risk of losing profits, and even possibly livelihood. The union members run the risk of becoming unemployable or losing income, which may or may not be made up in a subsequent settlement.

In this particular situation, taxpayers find themselves in the unenviable position of funding both sides of this dispute, in which both sides have little financial risk and considerable upside when it is over.

Government politicians might be wise to remember that voters may tire of conflicts going political and seriously inconveniencing them. Teachers might be wise to remember that although teaching can be extremely challenging, they will attract little sympathy whining about the hours or the compensation packages.

I entered public education as a pupil in 1955, and between my siblings and children was in contact until 2011. Now, I am glad to be out.

Bob Holden, White Rock

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I am a Grade 3 teacher at Beaver Creek Elementary in Surrey. I want to know why is it always such a fight for teachers to get a fair deal?

I have had many conversations, both with friends who work in the public sector, and with others that walk by as we’re picketing.

One friend of mine, who is a CUPE member for the Township of Langley, said to me: “I don’t understand why teachers get treated this way… We recently got a five per cent raise and I already make more than most teachers… My fellow workers and I don’t even need to invest the amount of time and money into the educational job requirements that teachers do.”

Today, a grandparent walked by our picket. He said B.C. teachers are paid less than most of the country, and our students are funded less than all provinces except one, yet our BC Liberal government is paid second-highest in the country and has many expense benefits. Why should teachers get four years of zero when government workers have received a 40 per cent raise and Premier Christy Clark has received a 50 per cent raise since Gordon Campbell left office?

I also have a friend who is a local firefighter who said: “Man, I feel sorry for you teachers, buddy… It looks like we’ll be getting a wage increase of 20 per cent over eight years on our next contract.”

Recently, the BCTF tabled another proposal which included significant reductions to our wage expectations (7.5 per cent over five years) which is actually less overall than other public sectors, and government didn’t even recognize it.

Why do teachers have to go through this so often when our contract renewal comes up?

Greg Monroe, Surrey

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Regarding the latest teachers shenanigans, with every Saturday and Sunday off, 11 statutory holidays, 10 ‘pro-D’ days, most of the summer months, spring break and Christmas holidays, add on the days off during their annual strike, the odd “study sessions,” students being dismissed one hour early every Friday – and teachers are only teaching for less than six months in the year.

For a quiet life, buy property next to a school. Half the time there’s nobody in session.

Still, it’s “all about the kids.” Right!

G. Reid, Surrey

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As a Grade 8 student at Earl Marriott Secondary, life has been very confusing in the past few weeks – Monday, school; Tuesday, home; Wednesday, school; Thursday, home; Friday, home…

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

I can only imagine how the teachers feel. They have been under the cloud of uncertainty regarding the future of their jobs and job conditions – low wages, overcrowded classrooms and lack of support and resources for the classroom.

Many people, especially some parents, blame the teachers for not giving their children education when they are supposed to, and for not giving their children report cards at the scheduled time.

Moreover, the teachers went on strike during the provincial-exam period, giving students less time to review the materials with their designated teachers, which also gives the parents more stress to keep their children on track of the examination reviews.

However, I’m writing to say everyone needs to stop blaming the teachers. It is the government’s fault due to the poor efforts to acknowledge and cherish the role of teachers in our society. They are shaping young minds. Don’t they deserve some respect?

Why can’t the government stop putting the economy first and realize that education is what makes the economy boom? Investing in education is an investment into our future economy, not to mention the happiness of all young British Columbians.

Many students, like myself, value education and appreciate teachers. My only hope is that the government comes to its senses and does so, as well.

Leon Chen, Surrey