Independent board is needed to settle teachers dispute

Editor: The B.C. Teachers Federation and the provincial government have been unable to reach a contract agreement after a year of negotiation. As a result, the government has now passed Bill 22 into law.

It states no job action can take place until after Aug. 31, and a mediator will be appointed to settle all outstanding issues and advise the government of outstanding issues by June 30.

Action will then be taken to resolve these issues by Aug. 31 and bring us, we hope, labour peace in our public school system.

Bill 22 imposes severe financial penalties for anyone in the BCTF or anyone associated with it, or anyone else who disregards any of the requirements of the bill.

For example, teachers would be fined $475 per day for each day the offence occurs.

For an officer of the BCTF, the fine would be not less than $2,500 per day for each day.

For the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA), the employers, it is $200,000 for each day.

It also deletes a number of issues from the existing agreement. The bill puts our school children first and ensures they will have uninterrupted education.

What we need is an independent board of, say, four people who would resolve issues between the BCTF and the BCPSEA.

Any issue they could not agree on would be referred to a court for resolution.  Should a teacher get paid leave for compassionate care?

Public service employees in essential services should not have the right to strike.

The taxpayers must come up with funds to pay for government- funded services, therefore, they need to be considered when granting teachers wages and benefits.

It may be reasonable to establish basic wage levels and then provide increases based on the cost of living. Strikes in the public service should not be a problem we have to live with.

Now is the time for positive action.

Eric J. Bysouth,