Currently, in our great Province of British Columbia, there is public unrest because of contract negotitations for our teachers. There has been a lot of information, a lot of slandering and a lot of opinions flying back and forth so I thought I would weigh in on the issue as well.
I’d like to start by saying that I can only imagine if we, the public, are all having such confusing, round-about conversations on this topics, the negotiation team is probably even in worse shape.
From what I understand and have researched, the teachers are looking for a total of 15% wage increase over three years plus a slew of additional medical, dental and time benefits. In a healthy, thriving economy I could support such a wage demand; however, in our current fiscal climateI think that teachers need to be more realistic about a wage increase. Is our Government trying to be rid of our defict on the backs of it’s public servants and social programs? It appears so and I don’t agree with that method HOWEVER they are our current elected Government and our current fiscal environment is everyone’s fault. It is the result of many years of over spending, leading hugely consumer-based lifestyles and not being aware that we are all living well beyond our means. Our current elected party is attempting to keep our Province afloat. Is this a good thing? Absolutely, is their method sound? I don’t think so but I don’t have a better solution either. I’m not convinced that having a party with looser purse strings is such a great idea either. I mean, if we start handing out relatively large wage increases to public sectors, how will we pay for that? Will it result in layoffs? How will those layoffs affect our Province? To me, being employed and not getting a raise is far better than getting a raise and risking unemployment. Mass layoffs and increased unemployment would have a much larger, devastating domino effect than simply remaining status quo.
While we’re on the topic of wage increases, the Government actually has identified that wage increases are possible BUT savings have to be seen elsewhere. What does this mean? It means that money funding special programs could be cut and that money be directed towards salary dollars, money allocated for supplies could be cut and funnelled to pay the teachers OR perhaps the teachers could look at what they’re paying their Union representation and lobby for a decrease in fees. That would certainly provide some money to funnel back into the teacher’s pockets. Which begs the next question…what about the BCTF? Has anyone taken the time to stop and really sift through their financial statements? How much does the President and the Administration make? What do their expense accounts look like? Are they lining their pockets off the backs of teachers and then pointing the finger at the Government? Union representation should be about protecting the workers in the workforce. I say we start looking at our Union organizations and identify areas that could be improved. I mean, what would happen if you ran local elections and the teacher that won the election was excused from teaching (a TOC could easily fill in) and was given supplemental pay for their additional duties. I think that someone in the system would be able to give a more accurate account of how the education system really runs and I truly believe that public support would be far, far greater than it is now. My opinion on this stretches to all of the Public Service Unions.
The BCTF says that this fight is really about class size, composition and learning environments. Well, the Supreme Court has already ruled that legislating the ability to negotiate for class size and composition was unconstitutional so why ins’t the BCTF using that? If this battle really isn’t about wages, lower the wage ask to something reasonable and do-able and demand that class size, composition, better supplies and greater teaching assistance be put back on the table. I guarantee that the teachers would have just about every single parent in British Columbia fighting their fight and it would force our Government to stand up and take notice.
Our entire education system needs an overhaul. It’s old and archaic. Right now, teachers who have the most seniority, not necessarily the best teachers, but the most senior teachers are the ones who get the jobs. These are often ones who are riding out the last couple of years to retirement (notice I said OFTEN not ALL) and they are starting to burn out whereas many new teachers, who are excited, armed with new information, a freshly minted degree and are chalk full of energy, are the ones to spend years on TOC lists just waiting for their chance to make a difference. That needs to change. There needs to be a way to determine which teachers are the best ones to be teaching our children and they need to be fairly compensated for that. Administration…we have had the good fortune of having exceptional principals for our kids’ schools, until the last rotation when we lost, in my opinion, two of the best principals in all of the city. Those principals should be evaluated and compensated accordingly. To me, a Principal who stands outside monitoring the playground, takes the time to know each child in their school and is present at every award function, Christmas concert and puts their heart and souls into their schools deserve more money than a Prinicpal who shows up and sits in his office all day long. There needs to be a system of determining how to and who to compensate.
I also think that teachers need to stop complaining about being teachers. I’ve often heard the argument, when talking about compensation – which this is not supposed to be about wages, that teachers have to go to school for a long time. They have to work long days, they have to pay for some supplies out of pocket, they have hard jobs. Here’s my take on this. It was your choice to become a teacher – and no, I will not accept the “someone has to do it” line either. You chose to go to school for many years and you chose to do this job. There are perks to this job that are never talked about but I think should be acknowledged. Your “vacation” always lines up to that of your child’s reducing childcare costs. That is a huge benefit. You work Sept – June but earn a “yearly salary”. This is where the 9 – 10 hour day argument loses all merit because you only work those hours for 10 months out of the year! I would love to have two months off in the summer!! Let’s talk about some of the employer-paid benefits you receive. Paid sick time AND someone to cover your workload while you’re gone. Paid stat holidays OFF. Some people have to work those days. There’s the extended medical and dental benefits. Topped-up maternity leave. A PENSION! Those are all things that make for an above-standard lifestyle here in Canada. Those benefits are not available to everyone and they are all worth their weight in gold. I wish that teachers would stop complaining about being teachers and start focussing on the education system.
In closing, I’d like to note that I do support the teachers. I appreciate all that they do for the children of our Province. I want class sizes to be reasonable. I want teachers and the students to have adequate supplies in their class rooms. I support a fiscally responsible Government. I support a change to our education system.
I do not support a 15% wage increase. I do not support additional time off for professional development, sick leave, 5 years ( ) maternity leave, or anything else like that. I do not support abusive, juvenile or disrespectful picketing. I do not support Bill 22. I do not support bullying tactics from either party or using our children as pawns.
There is no easy solution but I'[m sure there is one. It’s going to require compromise from BOTH SIDES and I’m not sure either party is really ready sit down and compromise. Unfortunately, until that changes this will remain in a stalemate situation.