by Cathy Fisher It is not something we do lightly, but after 16 months at the bargaining table without getting close to a fair deal, teachers across BC began rotating strikes on Monday, May 26. Teachers in Powell River are on the picket lines today, Wednesday, May 28.
BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the provincial government refuse to offer any improvements to class size, class composition and other important learning conditions for students. On top of that, their wage demands would not even allow teachers to keep up with the cost of living in BC and would result in four years without a pay raise.
Our provincial government currently provides $1,000 less per student than the national average. Only Prince Edward Island provides less funding for students. That means less support for learning and that’s not fair to our kids. The BC government has to begin reinvesting in our students and their future.
BC has the second lowest student to educator ratio in the country. In almost every other province students have greater access to and support from teachers. Our students deserve the highest level of support; they are our future.
Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also our students’ learning conditions, in BC Supreme Court. The government has twice been found to have acted illegally and unconstitutionally, and has even been condemned by the United Nations for its actions against teachers’ rights.
The constitutional rights of teachers can’t be swept under the carpet, and the fundamental rights of all children to quality, fully funded public education should also be respected. Teachers expect the government to bring new funding to the table to make much-needed improvements happen.
As teachers, we do not want to be taking job action. We care deeply about each and every one of our students. We empathize with parents who have to re-work their schedules, and that is why we took the unusual step of giving more than a week’s notice.
We are firmly convinced that we need to take a strong stand now to convince Premier Christy Clark’s government to reinvest in public education and in our students. Education funding must be a priority.
Now the government has said it will lock teachers out before and after school and at recess and lunch. This means teachers won’t be able to provide the extra support they so often provide for students and will result in cancellation of the volunteer extracurricular activities that are so important for both students and teachers.
Teachers will remain at the bargaining table, around the clock if necessary, in order to secure a negotiated deal that will provide for a better learning environment for students.
We appeal to parents and other concerned citizens to join with us in encouraging Clark and education minister Peter Fassbender to move off their unreasonable positions and empower BCPSEA to negotiate a fair deal for teachers and better support for kids.
Parents are encouraged to speak with teachers to learn about their concerns, and there is information online. You can also email the Powell River and District Teachers’ Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cathy Fisher is president of the Powell River and District Teachers’ Association. She taught in school district 47 for 34 years.