Editorial — Teachers' strike will get worse

The ongoing teachers’ strike, which thus far has mainly been marked by a lack of report cards and minimal co-operation between principals and teachers in schools, is about to get much nastier.

The B.C. Teachers Federation may go out onto the picket lines, depending on what its members tell it. Meetings were held at all schools in the province on Monday.

The escalated strike action, if it comes about, will be a result of the provincial government’s plan to legislate a settlement to the dispute. While the two sides have been bargaining for about eight months, there has been little movement on both sides and they remain far apart.

The BCTF wants a 15 per cent wage increase over three years, which is obviously far too rich for taxpayers at the present. It is particularly out of step with other settlements between the province and other government workers.

At the same time, the province has offered little in the way of incentives for the BCTF to modify its proposals. Its standard response has been that it wants a ”net zero” contract, and it’s up to the union to come up with potential cost saving ideas that would fund a wage increase.

Unfortunately, negotiated settlements between the BCTF and the provincial bargaining agency are very rare. There’s only been one, and that was due to the fact that the province was willing to offer teachers a good wage boost at a time when the economy was in much better shape.

The NDP, which brought in provincial bargaining in the 1990s, was no more successful in reaching negotiated settlements than the Liberals have been. The BCTF sees itself as above the fray of ordinary bargaining, and the structure of the union itself makes it difficult to reach negotiated agreements.

Teachers do have some issues which need resolution. The province has dumped a lot of extra work on them, through changes to its reporting systems, and through an added number of children with special needs in many classrooms.

Many teachers will soon be retiring, and the province has shown little interest in offering incentives to keep good teachers on the job longer, to offer their skills in the classroom and act as mentors to young teachers who are just starting out.

Unfortunately, the ones who will suffer through any escalated strike are students.

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