OUR VIEW: Both teachers and province need to bargain

As the school year started Tuesday, word came down that the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) had issued strike notice.

As the school year started Tuesday, word came down that the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) had issued strike notice.

No, teachers in School District 51 weren’t going to prevent students from attending the first day of school, rather they would only limit their services, at least for the time being.

Teachers will still teach their classes but they won’t be taking part in teacher supervision and staff meetings and there were reports Tuesday that recess would have to be cancelled because of the job action.

BCTF members aren’t trying to punish the students but rather, they say they are trying to get their employers back to the table and to bargain in good faith amongst other things.

In labour disputes, there are usually people inconvenienced and the recent postal strike was a good example of this but teachers, like mail employees, have the right to bargain and if negotiations aren’t going well, the right to strike and job action.

However, it seems like the government is continually trying to hinder the BCTF.

Back in 2002, the provincial government and then Premier Gordon Campbell, introduced legislation that took away teachers’ right to negotiate on class size and the make up of classes and recently the B.C. Supreme Court shot down that legislation, deeming it unconstitutional – according to reports, the provincial government and the BCTF have a year to work on a settlement and if they are still at an impasse, it could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Over the past few years, the provincial government has taken a stance that sees it refusing to offer any sort of wage increase in the public sector and while that makes sense given current economic conditions, members of the teachers’ union say that the employers association for the government is also asking the teachers to make major concessions as well – negotiations are supposed to be a give and take, not a take and take.

On top of that, the government is also said to be seeking to add “management rights” that would include the ability to fire teachers without much of an evaluation process.

The teachers say they want to negotiate in good faith but there needs to be two sides working together for that to happen.