Bargaining follies have already begun

Sinister plot to privatize B.C.'s current education system or a shift in focus away from conflict?

Is it a sinister plot to privatize B.C.’s current education system, destroy the teachers’ union and download all the costs onto parents or is it, as Premier Christy Clark states, a shift in focus away from conflict and towards a system that “puts children first.” (Working Together for Students — A Framework for Long-term Stability in Education, Ministry of Education, January 2013)

It’s not surprising that B.C. teachers are protesting what’s feared, by many in the school system, to be an imminent ten-year contract between their union and the provincial government. Not many people would take kindly to their employer springing that kind of deal on them.

A ten-year contract of any kind is enough to make most balk. Many people can’t even handle a three-year cell phone contract, which led to a new code of conduct allowing customers to break their contracts after two. However, most eventually do settle into mortgages, which can last a lifetime.

Both sides of the dispute insist they have students’ best interests as their motivating factor. Meanwhile, the Liberal government is trying to balance a beat up budget, and the teachers are trying to ensure their union stays intact, along with all the seniority and pay increases previous collective bargaining agreements have secured for them.

Premier Clark’s attempt to be the voice of reason in the decades-long dispute around teaching contracts in B.C. is totally undermined by her incredibly unreasonable approach. Firing the board that represents local school districts — which ultimately have the responsibility of balancing the budgets of all schools in the province — and replacing them with an already-appointed administrator to bargain for a contract they will ultimately have to implement is asinine.

Why the Liberals appear to be intent on validating the NDP claim that they are removing decision-making on general public policy from the hands of the public is beyond puzzling. Stability in education is a noble goal, and the province’s education does need a complete overhaul, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater is never a good idea.