theQuestion: As the B.C. teachers dispute escalates, which side is responsible for the disruption in student learning?*
Give me a break. Listening to BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker’s press conference last week was maddening.
Iker harangued the provincial government over its move to implement a limited teacher lockout, which was announced by the BC Public School Employers’ Association. The BCPSEA is in charge of negotiations with the teachers’ union on behalf of the provincial government and the limited lockout is in response to the BCTF’s escalating job action of rotating teacher strikes.
In a desperately transparent attempt to sway public opinion, Iker repeatedly called the government action as “Christy Clark’s lockout.” He laid the blame for the disruption of student learning at the feet of the premier. His statements were disingenuous at best.
The lockout closely embodies several of the provisions implemented by the BCTF in its escalating job action. The lockout notice is designed to attach a financial penalty to the withdrawal of teacher services under the BCTF plan.
In the press conference, Iker did not once mention the looming teachers’ strike action. If you are to believe Iker, the BCTF bares no responsibility in the disruption of student learning. Teachers refusing to show up to work warrants not a mention.
As students and parents across the province ready themselves for the sting of a rotating strike, it’s important to take stock of where we are in the bargaining. As it stands now, after more than a year of negotiations the provincial government has made significant concessions in order to get a deal done. In acquiescence, the province has dropped its demand for a 10-year labour agreement. The government has also tabled a reasonable wage increase that is in line with other major B.C. public sector unions — more than half of which have already settled contracts with deals delivering a 5.5% wage increase over five years.
The BCPSEA wage proposal to teachers delivers a pay increase of 7.25% over six years — plus a $1,200 signing bonus for each full-time teacher if an agreement is concluded by June 30. According to the BCPSEA, teachers want a salary increase of 15.9% over four years, and with an increase in benefits and reduction in workload, the total compensation is 21.5% over four years — costing B.C. taxpayers $646 million — almost four times the rate increase of other public sector unions. BCTF demands are outrageous. Teachers deserve a raise and the government is delivering.