Let me start by making myself clear. While most students would stand on the side of the teachers and support their cause, I am not an advocate of the teachers’ decisions, nor am I a supporter of the government’s actions. And I’ll tell you exactly why that is.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months (perhaps even years), the BCTF and the BC provincial government have been at war for the sake of increased wages and for a few other supplementary benefits: smaller class sizes, funding for educational material, etcetera. And just like a hefty amount of other labour disputes, it resulted in a strike. But the problem is not so much the strike; that would be far too simple of an issue to resolve. The strike is only the result of the bigger conflict behind the scenes.
I understand that the BCTF isn’t fighting for wages alone, but I question whether the aforementioned things are truly as important as they make them seem to be; if I’m not mistaken, the majority of the disagreement stems from the gap between the wage increase that the government has offered, and the wage increase that BCTF has demanded. The government has no means of obtaining the extra money that they need in order to satisfy the teachers at this moment in time; granted, this is a result of government actions I will discuss later on. They cannot just print that extra money. While it is reasonable to ask for a raise since everyone deserves a right to live in an area where the price of goods continue to inflate, I certainly do not think that asking for much more than any other public sector asked is in any way reasonable (which the calculation, mind you, is based on the combination of all benefits. I believe that this is the most practical although less ideal way of measuring, as in the end, it all amounts to money). If the government accedes to the demands of this union, all the other unions would, one by one, ask for the same conditions once their respective contracts run out. Needless to say, this would cause quite a bit of financial trouble not only for the government, but also for the taxpayers.
This is, however, not to say that the government is not at fault. Turning to the public for sympathy does not constitute the most effective way of resolving the issue. The government is trying to get the taxpayers’ support through media in order to make the teachers seem like the ‘bad guys’. Illegally passing bills to end strikes isn’t a solution either. The government needs to look past the present, because much of their actions involve merely temporarily putting off issues until later. Their lacking financial resources to settle an agreement with the teachers is a direct result of their inability to prioritize, and of their involvement with abysmal corporate greed. Remember, providing an education for kids is of utmost importance, as shown in the United Nations’ Conventions on the Rights of the Child treaty (well written article about that here, if you haven’t read it already); which, by the way, the government is not following.
Of course, the government has tons of time to stall while the teachers become increasingly anxious about their next payroll. By doing so, the government is trying to create internal tension within BCTF in hopes of snatching a better deal. After all, what can they ask for when they have internal conflicts going on, right? What the government is currently doing is in no way acceptable. Elected leaders? Elected, yes, but leaders, not so much.
In the end, both sides are at fault. The results of the strike are evidently detrimental to all parties. But guess who loses the most? Students. Us. Grade 12s preparing to apply for universities, especially. For some aiming to go into some of the BC post secondaries, the issue is not as big, as those institutes will compensate for the lack of whatever material is missing as a result of the strike. However, those striving to go to colleges outside of BC will not find such lenient attitudes.
Well enough with complaining about both sides, what about solutions? There are two ways we could resolve this mess. We could either wait until October for the ‘you’re-on-strike-but-I’m-going-to-illegally-make-you-work-anyway’ deal, or we could reach an agreement to actually solve the core problem. Of course, the second option is far more desirable, but once again, both sides need to be less firm with their demands. Mediator Ready didn’t walk away from the bargaining table for no reason. The fact that the government had the balls to sit back for WEEKS and leave public education hanging leaves me worried. In fact, it leaves me absolutely horrified. I expect more mature behaviour from adults we call our leaders and our educators.
Can we please have our education back?
P.S. Hey Christy Clark, how’s packing lunch for your child? I’ll bet he’s enjoying that private school.