By Dan Walton
With Labour Day over, and the teachers and the B.C. provincial government still at a stalemate, the looming threat of a strike to start off the 2014-2015 school year has been realized.
The teachers union and the government share a toxic history together, and theyve recently entered unchartered legal territory, leaving both sides under the impression that holding out is their best strategy.
Were all going to go back to work; we just dont know when or how, said Doug Murray, president of the Windermere Teachers Association.
Jim Iker, president of the British Columbia Teachers Federation (the teachers union), says the court victory from early in 2014 would become nullified under a new agreement, while Premier Christy Clark claims the teachers union is making excessive demands compared to their public sector counterparts.
The BCTF and the provincial government both claim classroom size and composition is the most critical issue under negotiation, and both claim that unfair compensation offers are preventing the discussion from moving forward.
As the provincial government appeals the B.C. Supreme Courts decision which favoured teachers, both parties also claim theyre trying to arrange an interim deal. The ongoing appeal has intensified the stalemate, however, as both sides are expecting the court to rule in their favour. The outcome of the appeal is expected to play a large role in shaping future contracts.
On Wednesday, September 3rd, Premier Clark held a special news conference at her office in Vancouver in which she asked teachers to suspend the strike.
Mr. Murray said thats what the BCTF has been trying to do.
The union is trying to make an interim deal until the court case is settled, he said. Put money [temporarily] into class sizes, help that situation, and then [teachers] will work until the court case is decided.
Premier Clark said that only the teachers union can end the strike, and she doesnt want to wait for the courts decision before negotiating classroom composition.
Both parties can agree that teachers in the province are deserving of a raise, but statistics comparing B.C. teachers to their provincial and federal counterparts are being used by both sides to justify their vastly different offers.
Teachers do deserve a raise, no question about that, Premier Clark said. But to be fair, we have to make sure that it reflects other public sector workers [in the province].
Mr. Murray wants to see teachers wages in B.C. reflect those of most other teachers in Canada. Were the second worst paid teachers in all of Canada, and its expensive to live here in B.C. And he said that students in the province are also being short-changed.
I want them to be funding students at least to the Canadian average ($11,393 per student in 2010-2011), and were about $1,000 below the national annual average per student ($10,405 per student in 2010-2011).