The full-scale strike this week by B.C. teachers was inevitable.
After essentially working to rule for months while the government dug in its heels on its “net zero” wage freeze mandate, tensions finally reached the boiling point. And the teachers were walking the sidewalks on a cold, rainy Monday morning instead of imparting the Three Rs in warm, dry classrooms.
Working parents, accustomed to the workaday routine of carting their kids off to school while they went to their jobs, were left scrambling for alternative care and activities to keep them occupied.
That the labour dispute was allowed to reach this stage is a gamble by both sides. The BC Teachers Federation says the strategy it had been employing since the beginning of the school year created little disruption on learning or the daily routines of schoolkids and their families while still allowing its 41,000 members to make their point. By escalating their job action to a province-wide walkout, teachers are hoping they’ll be able to drive home their stand that years of government cutbacks to education funding have strangled their ability to educate effectively.
The government, by introducing legislation that would impose its own mediator to settle the dispute once and for all and force the teachers back to their desks, is gambling the voting public is fed up with the teachers.
Letting the teachers cool their heels outside for a few days, causing great disruption to students and their parents, may only feed that impression.
While most high-stakes gambits have a winner and loser, this one only has losers.
Students will lose three valuable days of learning. Parents will lose sleep, and likely a few bucks, organizing alternative care. Teachers will lose income and risk losing support. The government risks losing understanding for its hard-line stance.
It’s difficult to see how the wounds from this fractious dispute will ever be healed.