Monday, October 17, 2005

Fire 'em all

Readers who have been with me for a while know full well how I feel about strikes. For those who have recently squeezed into the Breadbin, very briefly: They're wrong.
Especially illegal strikes, such as the one spreading through British Columbia.
Teachers in B.C. are angry. They want a 15% raise. They want smaller class sizes. They want, they want, and they want. In all of this, it's the students who end up wanting...can't teachers see that?
Reading the BCTF's rationale for the illegal strike is fascinating. They claim to be angry because the government unilaterally extended a previous contract that had been allowed to lapse. In other words, in 2003 the contract was satisfactory; in 2005 it's not. Inflation since the contract lapsed, according to StatsCan, is a little over 2%. So teachers are abandoning their jobs over a little bit more than 2% of their pay.
But wait: there's more!

The previous contract, legislated in 2002,

decreed a 2.5%-per-year salary increase over three years. However,
that increase was not funded by government, nor were other increases in costs fully funded, such as medical premiums and other charges for government services. As a result, school boards had to cut the number of teachers. Some 2,600 teaching positions, nearly eight percent of the teaching force, were eliminated by school boards that no longer had enough funding to keep teachers in place. (italics mine)

I wonder how hard the federation worked to control costs before they came to the conclusion that teachers had to go. Somehow, I don't suspect they tried very hard. How much deadwood exists high in the Teachers' Federation tree? You'll never hear the answer, at least not from the union.

Notice that these contracts are always legislated, never negotiated. What does that tell you? It tells me that teachers would rather go on strike and deprive their students than negotiate the terms of a contract before it expires.

Whoever speaks on behalf of the teachers in British Columbia has no grasp whatsoever of basic economics. Here's another excerpt from the strike rationale:
When the B.C. Liberals were first elected, they immediately
created a large deficit by cutting taxes. This deficit was then given as the reason for making the cuts in many services, including education. Economic growth has now produced a budget surplus, even without increasing taxes to the previous rates. (italics again mine)
The economic growth experienced by British Columbia has been nothing short of
staggering since Gordon Campbell took control in 2001. The national and global economic picture has little to do with it, since B.C'.'s economy is growing faster than any other province's. The truth is that Campbell's tax cuts and service rationalizations are paying off. Of course, the teachers don't want to link Campbell's actions to the vastly improved B.C. economy; you have to read between their lines to do it.

Campbell's government has provided districts with an extra $150 million--about $250 more for every student in the province--but it's not enough, the teachers whine.

The court has found them in contempt and ordered them back to work. They don't care. The government has declared education an essential service. I find it hard to believe, but apparently the B.C. Teacher's Federation doesn't agree. Here's what Campbell has to say on the issue.

Speaking to reporters, Campbell said that while he understands the
union may disagree with government policy, that did not give them the right to break the law and show "such flagrant contempt for the courts of British Columbia."

"We can disagree on the laws that are passed, and we often do. But the
foundation of our society is that once a law is passed that we agree to obey it. We do not get to obey the laws that we like and disobey the laws that we don't like," Campbell said.

I couldn't have phrased that better myself.

In the same way that governments worldwide refuse to negotiate with terrorists and hostage-takers, Campbell will not sit down with teachers to discuss their concerns until they deign to return to work.

The discord is spreading. Unionized workers throughout the province are, in effect, striking along with the teachers "in sympathy". Bus service in Victoria has been cancelled; municipal offices provincewide are either shut or moving at a snail's pace. The mayor of Victoria has stated that all this is illegal and informed these wildcatters that they will lose pay. Humph.
In my world--unless I'm sick and can prove it--three consecutive days of no-showing for work will result in my termination. I'd suggest that would be a reasonable option here, for both the teachers and their "sympathizers". Then maybe the government of British Columbia can tap into the doubtless deep pool of citizens willing to take their place.

We look to teachers to set an example. Obeying the law is the least we can ask, no?

No comments: