A report from BCTF Kamloops gathering


An announcement Sunday that teachers will resume picketing this week is bound to disappoint those were still hoping that B.C. public schools might open on schedule Sept. 2.

Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), told hundreds of union members who had gathered in Kamloops for a special representative assembly and summer conference that they have more work to do before they’ll get a fair deal with government.

We need to increase the pressure once again,” he said, while declaring that pickets will soon be in full force across the province.  “We have asked our locals to ramp up the pressure on schools boards and local MLAs.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association had said it would lift its lockout until Sept 2 for teachers who wanted to partake in previously arranged professional development during the final week of August or prepare their classrooms for the coming school year.

It now appears that won’t be happening.

Iker also urged members to begin thinking about how they can influence school board elections in November.  “Right across this province, teachers need to take an active role in electing school board trustees who will advocate for public education,” he said. “We need to push candidates to find out where they stand on issues like underfunding, bad-faith bargaining, unconstitutional laws and contract stripping.

… [snipped]

According to a tweet from Global BC’s Keith Baldrey, the BCTF distributed a memo to members this weekend titled: Intensify the pressure and stay the course.  It called for rallies outside the offices of Premier Christy Clark and Labour Minister Shirley Bond, he tweeted.

Folks, this dispute will go long into September,” Baldrey added.

Michael Smyth interview with Minister Fassbender

For the past two weeks, British Columbians have been told a “media blackout” prevented release of any public updates on bargaining between the government and the striking teachers’ union.

It seemed like a good idea: Stop the public rhetoric and media mudslinging and finally get on with negotiating an end to the strike/lockout that has shut down our schools.

But the old saying “no news is good news” doesn’t apply this time. The two sides have not held formal face-to-face talks since Aug. 8.

The endlessly warring factions did meet separately with miracle-working mediator Vince Ready on Aug. 13, fuelling optimism a deal could be reached to open schools as scheduled on Sept. 2.

But not even Ready has been able to bridge the gap between two sides that apparently see no point in even trying to bargain with each other.

Most of the summer has been wasted, while our kids’ education hangs in the balance.

The government seems serious in its intent to wait the union out, refusing to legislate an end to a dispute that’s already cancelled the last two weeks of the previous school year.

The government quietly launched a “parent information” website this week with updates on the non-existent bargaining and suggestions for what kids should do with their spare time come September.

The site — www.bcparentinfo.ca — suggests kids take first aid and food-safe courses to replace their classroom learning. No, I’m not kidding.

It also has a “Learning Resources” link that connects users to “interactive games and activities for young learners,” online text books and “self-study resources.”

This is what our education system has become: Download your own textbooks and educate yourself.

But I suspect the website is aimed more at striking teachers than at frustrated parents.

The government’s unwritten message to teachers: We’re not going to budge. We’re not going to legislate you back to work. We really are going to tolerate the schools being shut down in September.

Are teachers willing to play along with this game of chicken? The government clearly hopes the union’s resolve will weaken as the strike/lockout inflicts deeper economic pain on teachers.

The average teacher has lost $5,200 in unpaid wages to the conflict. The government is signalling that it’s willing to keep siphoning teachers’ wallets, as they plan to pay parents $40 a day per kid while schools are shut.

News that some teachers are planning to abandon picket lines to set up home-schooling businesses no doubt delights the government and worries the union. The government wants teachers to lose heart and start questioning their union’s strategy.

Curse them both. Kids and parents are the innocent victims of their bitter war.

The B.C. School Act requires the province to educate our children.

“The purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society,” the law says.

The fact that the union and the government have wasted most of the summer, instead of working toward fulfilling this solemn mandate, is a downright disgrace.

B.C. teachers’ strike: parents to get $40 a day if strike continues


The B.C. government is offering the parents of each public school student under the age of 13 years $40 a day if the provincial teachers’ strike is not over by the start of classes in September.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced Thursday the cash will be paid using savings made from not having to pay teachers during the strike.

The program will cost the government about $12 million a day, which is about the same amount of money it costs to run the school system, said de Jong.

De Jong says parents will be able to claim their $40 per day per child through a website set up by the provincial government and may use the money however they see fit.

“There are costs that occur to families and parents when their children aren’t where they should be, which is in school,” said De Jong.

“Parents can utilize that money to acquire tutoring for their children, they can use the money to explore other educational opportunities as they see fit and for some parents, it’ll be basic daycare.”

De Jong said the government would pay out the money quickly, possibly in early October, although he hoped the contingency plan wouldn’t be needed and a settlement would be forthcoming.

“The message I hope that’s being conveyed is that there is a requirement, there is a need to end this recurring trend of not negotiating agreements.”

De Jong said he hoped the move would help end the teachers’ strike without legislation and accepted partial responsibility for the fact governments he had been a part of had “perhaps moved too quickly to use legislative tools to impose agreements.”

“I think the BCTF has come to expect that, and it has characterized and influenced the relationship in negative ways,” said the minister.

“It’s time as parties, parties representing the public, parties representing teachers, that we sit down and hammer out a negotiated agreement.”

De Jong said the government deemed students older than 13 ineligible for the payments because the province considers they are more able to access online or other educational resources and do not need as much supervision as younger children.