Tag Archives: BC teacher strike

Yay!

It seems that the teachers and the government of my province came to a tentative agreement very early this morning. At about 5:30 am (because I was up bright and early for my picket shift that starts at 6:30 am) I read it on the Intarnets – but of course, not everything on the Intarnets is true! But this actually was. And then the texting from colleagues started. At first, we weren’t sure whether or not we should still go picket, but logic prevailed and we soon realized that our strike isn’t actually over until the proposed deal is ratified by us teachers, and we were pretty sure that we hadn’t yet done that.

So the mood on the picket line today was joyous and light. We were all so relieved – it was almost over! Soon our bank accounts would get a deposit instead of another damn withdrawal! By 7 am, we heard that our vote would be on Thursday, so we had at least two more days to picket. There was a whole lot of speculation as to when schools would reopen – we thought maybe Friday at the earliest, but more likely Monday – and whether or not we would get a day or two to organize our classrooms prior to the kids arriving (which most teachers normally do in August, often a week or two before the actual first day of school). We had no actual information on the terms of the proposed agreement yet, but most of us didn’t care – we would vote yes just to get back to work! We got many more honks and waves from passing vehicles this morning than we’d ever had – and my school is on a fairly busy street, so we’ve had quite a bit of support throughout all this. The administrators of my school came out and chatted with us for a long time too, but they didn’t know much more than we did at that time.

I was quite happy and energized when I got home at 9:30 am. I threw a load of laundry into the wash, quickly made a grocery list, and headed out the door to purchase said groceries. I came home, put my groceries away, tossed the laundry into the dryer, zipped around with the vacuum, had a fast lunch, made some phone calls and sent some texts, watched the government’s press conference about the tentative settlement (I still don’t trust that Liberal government!), sat in the sun and read for a while, watched the teachers’ federation press conference about the tentative settlement (Can ANYBODY in my union actually give a straight answer to a question?!), took the laundry out of the dryer, ironed a couple of items and put everything away, had a good look at the tentative settlement on the union’s website, had a leisurely dinner, watched a little light TV …

Yep, it’s been a good day.

And yep, I’m happy with the proposed deal and I’ll be voting to approve it.

ThankYou

I wanna go back to work!

Today should be the first day of school in these parts.

Should be.

Instead, I (and six or seven of my teacher colleagues) was on the picket line at 6:30 this morning, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the school at which I normally work. I waved at every passing car that honked or gave me a thumbs up, but inside I was thinking, Gee, I wanna go to work too!

Everyone was in pretty good spirits, as most of us hadn’t seen each other all summer. Many of us did our summer picket duty together, yes, and some of us are friends outside of school, but we all had a whole lot to say to each other.

And a whole lot of that was about how ridiculous a strike this is.

The two sides met only a couple of times throughout the entire summer, and even a well-respected mediator who was brought in to “observe”, not to actually mediate yet, left the last meeting abruptly, saying that the two sides are still too far apart to even find some common ground upon which to begin the true mediation process. We teachers have dropped something like 125 million dollars from our original package of salary and benefit demands. The government has offered a salary package that doesn’t even cover a yearly cost-of-living increase (However, I’ve not received a full paycheque since last May, so really, ANY salary package is actually starting to sound okay to me!). We continue to demand that the government respect the two court decisions that have gone against them for illegally stripping class size and composition language from our contract over a decade ago, and to put more money on the table to begin to redress these wrongs, as the court has twice ordered. The government continues to insist that this is not possible, that it is too expensive, and because they have appealed these court decisions, they want to wait till that appeal is heard before even discussing such items. Oh – and they’ve countered our package with one of their own in which there is a clause stating that regardless of that upcoming appeal court decision, class size and composition would stay exactly as they are now (which, though I won’t go into details now, are NOT very conducive to good learning, compared to what we had prior to 2002, believe me!). In other words, the government wants to negate a court decision before it even happens – probably because having lost twice in court already, they are thinking that it’s quite likely that they will lose again and they will once again be ordered to return to things like the firm class size numbers, the firm number of students that non-enrolling teachers can work with, and the firm numbers of special needs students permitted in a single class.

Would you sign such a contract, regardless of what else was in it?!?

Basically, I think the government of this province is playing chicken with the teachers, and by extension, the kids and their parents. I think they are trying to wait us out. We teachers are losing a whole lot of money in this strike. The kids are losing a whole lot of education. The parents are losing a whole lot of money (in terms of increased daycare costs – if they can even find affordable daycare at this point! – or lost wages if they opt to stay home with their kids who should be in school) and a whole lot of patience too.

Yes, there is some suffering now, both for teachers and families (and let’s not forget that lots of teachers have school-aged kids too!). And it will likely get worse in the near future. But the long term outlook on education in this province is truly awful if we don’t stand up to this rule-breaking government now. Kids need smaller classes in order to get more attention from their teachers so that they can learn more effectively. Kids with special needs, be they learning disabilities, giftedness, serious behaviour issues, mental illnesses, physical challenges, autism, inability to speak English, whatever they may be, need more attention from specialized teachers in order to learn more effectively.

We used to have all that in the public schools – why can’t we have it now? This is a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned, and all the government has to do is redirect some of its total budget back towards education. They have taken over 200 million dollars out of the yearly education budget since the early 2000s – where does that money go every year? Why doesn’t the government want to properly and effectively educate all the kids of this province, not just those whose families are wealthy enough to be able to afford private schools?

A salary increase and better benefits? Sure, I’d like that too. Who wouldn’t? But many times in past contracts, teachers gave those up in order to gain that class size and composition stuff that we used to have. But then the government took that away from us – so now we are supposed to be happy with absolutely nothing? No improvement in wages, no improvement in benefits, AND no improvement to our working conditions (which, by the way, happen to be the kids’ learning conditions, which happen to be that pesky class size and composition language again!)?

Anyway, enough ranting.

I just wanna go back to work. But I won’t do it for absolutely nothing.

Carry on striking

Yeah, so the school year is officially over as of today. But I and my BC teacher colleagues have been on the picket line for two weeks, so I guess it actually ended back on June 12 in my school district, since we had our last rotating strike day on Friday the 13th (fitting, isn’t it?) and headed into the province-wide walk-out on Monday the 16th.

It feels weird – and it should, considering the way I just left my classroom that Thursday afternoon. There really wasn’t any true closure to the school year. Oh, we had our final staff party last night to get together one last time and to say farewell to the departing members of our team, and that helped. But I’m still feeling a little bereft right now. I never got to say a real goodbye to my amazing kids and their (mostly) wonderful parents. I never got to clean up my classroom and do all my final paperwork and put the 2013-14 school year properly to rest.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the bargaining over the summer. My union negotiating team and the government both say that they are committed to hammering out a deal that works for all parties by June 30. That’s Monday! That’s awfully near. And from what I’ve seen so far, that commitment doesn’t appear to be too hard and fast on the government side. Both sides are fairly entrenched in their positions now, too. It’s quite the stand-off. Some are saying that this may continue on into the new school year in September. I don’t want that – does any teacher? – but that is completely out of my hands.

Summer school is coming up in a number of locations in my school district. Some other districts in the province have already cancelled it. Some (like mine) are waiting, having pushed back the start date by a week, hoping that a) summer school will be deemed an essential service so it will go ahead or b) a deal will be reached so it will go ahead. Summer school is lucrative for school districts. Secondary school students, especially those from other countries, pay a lot of money to take a course or two during the summer. Elementary school students don’t have to pay, but they only get a two-week session to review the year’s math concepts and to practice their reading and writing skills a bit more.

The BC teachers’ union executive committee has decided that if no deal is reached prior to the revised start date and summer school is designated an essential service in the province, then we will picket all locations. We have all been asked to volunteer for one shift, particularly if we work at a location where summer school will be held. I do, and I have. But I truly hope I don’t have to.

What I want is for the government to return to the BC education system the money that they have systematically cut from it for years. I want the class size, class composition and staffing ratios that were in our contract to return to where they were before they illegally stripped those items away from us in 2002. A wage increase to, say, the cost-of-living each year would be nice. Some respect for the job we do would be really, really great.

And also, I want to stop picketing. My feet are sore.
Footprints