Opinion

Payment to parents over missed school does make some sense

The provincial government is quite predictably getting some flak from the B.C. Teachers Federation and the NDP over a plan to pay parents of children (up to 12) $40 per day for each school day missed in September — if the BCTF strike is not settled by then.

While the move is certainly political, it does recognize the fact that parents are hit hard by the teachers’ strike, through extra daycare and other costs.

The government is saving a boatload of money — $12 million a day — as a result of the strike. It is not unreasonable to share some of those savings with those who are paying extra money in day-to-day expenses, as a result of this strike.

It is hard to arrange for additional and unexpected child care, and it does cost more than parents can often afford.

It also should serve as a reminder to BCTF members that there will be no paycheques in September if the strike isn’t settled by then. Neither side appears willing to move from its respective position. In many ways, the situation has overtones of the Israel-Gaza standoff, the latest in a long series of standoffs over more than 60 years. Thankfully the teachers’ strike is a war of words, and there are no fatalities.

There is no bargaining going on. There are no plans to call in a  mediator. Several have sniffed around the situation and said the two sides are so far apart, mediation would do little good.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong is right that it would do little good to legislate teachers back to work. That tactic has been used far too often in the past. There needs to be an actual agreement between the two sides, for their own good and for the good of students and parents.

The bargaining system involving the two is in terrible shape, but hard bargaining could result in an agreement — if there is some genuine willingness on the part of both sides to do so.

Teachers who are caught up in this dispute will have to carefully consider their actions over the next month or so. While many are undoubtedly on vacation, what will they do when they returning to no work?

Many teachers are already feeling the financial squeeze. Several weeks out of work in September will really hurt, particularly as they are not getting strike pay.

Will they put pressure on the union to try and settle? Ultimately, they control the union through whom they elect to the board. If they are content with the BCTF executive’s actions up until now, they will do nothing.

Many teachers don’t take part in union activities, but a large number did vote to go on strike.  Are they still satisfied with that decision?

I’ve said from day one of this strike that the government holds almost all the cards. It will face no political pressure of any consequence, with an election three years away. Settlements with other unions will eventually force the BCTF to toe the line. The question is, how long will it take?

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