March 14, Victoria, BC –– With the assured passage of Bill 22, BC is at the inevitable conclusion of another dysfunctional resolution of a protracted labour confrontation. Bill 22 and the current BCTF strike action represent an impossible solution to the goal of delivering the best possible public education in BC. The Green Party of BC believes the BC Liberals have worked systematically over the course of their time in office to make the collective bargaining process ineffective often resorting to legislation to negate any real opportunity for a negotiated settlement. It is a tired neo-conservative strategy to break the unions and it doesn’t work. The BCTF have demonstrated they are willing to go to the courts to protect their rights and the courts have ruled against the BC Liberal government.
Periodic commissions have recommended dramatic changes to the relationship between teachers and the government. Bill 22 is not the change. The Bill essentially makes collective bargaining a farce and legislates a contract, despite the appointment of a token mediator whose only job is to come back with a contract acceptable to the BC Liberals. In other words, he or she will not have the power to mediate. Bill 22 also purports to comply with the courts requirement that the province reinstate collective bargaining rights when in fact the Bill does no such thing.
The government is trying to win support for their actions by repeating the statement that virtually all contracts with teachers have been legislated to justify the need for Bill 22. Each time a union is legislated back to work the relationship between government and unions becomes more dysfunctional and toxic. Long term, the bad blood infects all public sector unions, the work becomes politicized and unpleasant and the people doing it feel disrespected and demoralized.
The BC Liberals may want to break the unions, but what they are doing is making the work place unpleasant and the work unrewarding. Teachers feel undervalued and the lack of any real power to improve their working conditions will impact the children despite the professionalism and good intent of our teachers.
It is time for a different approach. The BC Green Party believes we need to reform our approach to public education based in optimal communication, mutually-supportive conflict resolution, peace, inclusion, tolerance, diversity and social sensitivity. If we want this principle to infuse our education, it needs to be the foundation of the relationship between teachers and the government as well. A good place to start would be to reform the collective bargaining process.
BC Greens believe control over schools and negotiations with teachers should be transferred to local school boards from the provincial government. Teachers should have the ability to use their classroom environment and teaching styles to meet the needs of their students. Communities should have input into the system at the “ground level” through advisory boards, so it can monitor the quality of the education students are getting.
The Green Party of BC advocates for an Education Commission to determine the place and role schools should play in communities in the information era, to identify the values, knowledge, and competencies that graduating students should have, and to establish a comprehensive framework for learning and curriculum development.
BC Greens support a return of regional district-by-district collective bargaining. Unless something different happens, relations between the BCTF and the government will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment of children and their educational outcomes and to the teachers who work on behalf of our children..
BC Greens also call for an end to commercials by government that use tax-payers money to promote the BC Liberal government’s position with regard to Bill 22. This government is out of gas when it comes to effective solutions to the problems we face. Taxpayers want a government that respects and will bargain in good faith with all public sector unions including teachers.