Teachers have been busy bargaining

The B.C. Teachers Federation has met with employers more than 62 times since last June.

Editor: As a teacher, I was very upset to read The Times editorial  about the teachers’ job action in the opinion section of the Dec. 20 edition.

The writer states that “it is very unfortunate that the BCTF negotiators have spent so much time posturing in public and relatively little time actually negotiating.”

The truth is that the teachers’ union, the B.C. Teachers Federation, has met with B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), and the principals’ and vice-principals’ union, over 62 times since last June.

In the 62 meetings so far, BCPSEA has offered nothing. As for “posturing,” we have been unable to spend much on communicating to the public what is really going on, because we have spent nearly all of our dues fighting the government’s draconian bills to suspend class size and how many special needs students are in each classroom.

Special needs includes many different categories such as ESL, learning disabilities, severe behaviours, physical disabilities, autism and more.

This leads to a reduced level of education for all students, as the teachers are dealing with so many different needs, large classes and the heavy paperwork involved. Yet this government is demanding the following conditions:

r Administrative officers will be able to terminate a teacher’s employment, based on a single performance review;

r Potentially, any teacher could be transferred year-after-year, teachers could be transferred to another community, interim positions could be filled without posting — all of this without any teachers or the union being made aware of it;

r Although other professions such as the police and nurses have received raises this year, we are being offered 0 per cent. Teachers are required to have university training for their jobs. This costs many thousands of dollars in terms of tuition and years of lost income while we are in school, yet we are offered 0 per cent;

r Teachers in B.C. are among the lowest paid teachers in Canada — 11th out of 13th among provinces and territories. We are $20,000 lower in salary, compared to Alberta and Ontario, yet we have the highest cost of living; and

r The money is going to the top level of management rather than the front line — the teachers. Many superintendents are making between $200,000 and $220,000 per year. Principals are often making $50,000 more in salary than the highest-paid teacher.

Consider that teachers have paid over $10 million fighting the government for better conditions to improve education for our children. Years ago, we chose to accept 0 per cent in return for smaller class sizes and conditions. Does this happen in the private sector? Do employees spend their own money to improve the conditions for their customers and forego pay increases to do so? No, they don’t.

Only teachers have done this, because they are dedicated to the children. But there is a limit when a government continues to hurt us.

A year ago, a judge ruled that the Liberal government was wrong to refuse to bargain class size and composition with us. This took years of our time and $9 million of our dues. However, this government has ignored the court’s ruling. That shows its arrogance.

The Labour Relations Board ruled that during this job action, teachers were not required to send report cards. Yet in good faith, we have sent informal reports anyway.

I would ask the unidentified writer of the editorial to please check his/her facts before publishing what appears to be anti-teacher opinion. This opinion implies that we are selfish and unrealistic about the government’s ability to pay for a good educational system. The author also forgot to mention all of the questionable deals this government has been involved in over the past 10 years.

Jan Stuart,