Union response disappoints

Reader unhappy with BCTF response to back-to-work legislation, offers suggestions

I am disappointed by the BCTF response to back-to-work legislation. How can this union claim to represent “professionals” when it is still mired in 19th century “workers’ struggles” long since successfully concluded?

At the outset let’s agree education is a vitally important service. I have been an educator and no part of my career gave me greater satisfaction. Assuredly there are skilled, dedicated, effective teachers in B.C. deserving of thanks and reward. Mr. Burritt’s recent letter is a hopeful sign that not all teachers share their executive’s belligerence. The BCTF mistakenly concludes, however, that valuing education highly means teachers are to be automatically valued highly as well.

Any service can be delivered well or poorly. In the private sector the former is rewarded and the latter weeded out. It is called accountability and the system is self correcting. Providers of government services, on the other hand, not forced to compete for consumers’ interest, may develop a sense of entitlement.

While public servants across B.C. and around the world are facing necessary restraints, the BCTF feels free to demand a one-year bonus for retiring teachers, two weeks paid bereavement leave if even non-family die, a 15 per cent pay raise over three years etc. etc.

The BCTF also claims teachers have not had a raise for some time, they have “fallen behind” other provinces, and government funding for education has been reduced.

What values does the BCTF position model for students? Their 2006 contract actually included raises between 14 per cent and 21 per cent over five years and per student funding (the best measure at the system level) has steadily increased.

Teachers’ seemingly selfless call for smaller classes would coincidentally offset employment losses due to shrinking enrolments. Pay scales in other provinces are irrelevant in the absence of accountability for quality education outcomes. The BCTF instead resists accountability and actively protects the incompetent.

It is interesting that we rightly welcome controls on monopolies but see such controls on sole sources of employees (monopsony unions) as “limiting rights.” Our province’s widely (if reluctantly) accepted “net zero” policy is responsible governance given economic realities and voters’ continual “poor me” howl to limit taxes. The BCTF argues that teachers are a special case and failure to accept their demands expresses a “lack of respect.”

Special indeed… when faced with back-to-work legislation, they chose Anti-bullying Week to attack the government as “bullies.” What a woeful trivialization of an important issue. All the more ironic when the BCTF response was classic school-yard bully. Unable to have their own way, they punish the most vulnerable – students and their parents. The three-day strike and denial of volunteer services can improve nothing.

It is time all parties set aside “Them or Us.” The concept that “Administration” and “Teaching” are isolated entities whose only common ground is an adversarial bargaining table is not just anachronistic, it is a danger to the functioning of civil society. The education system is a single organism whose sole objective must be to turn out responsible, well-rounded citizens equipped with the widest knowledge and best critical thinking skills available.

If teachers wish to be respected and valued, their energy would be best spent ”conspiring” with their employer to deliver exceptional education in the most cost-effective, measurable, and outcome-centered system possible. It can be as easy as sitting on the same side of the table.

Try it…if our government is the boogie man the BCTF claims, it will become obvious soon enough. But then again, what if it works … ?


Michael Wm. Murison, Vernon