Monday, June 16, 2014

Teachers' June strike a tactical error

I don’t understand the teachers’ union decision to strike with two weeks left in the school year.
Parents resent school closures at any time; they impose serious hardships on working families. My entirely unscientific sampling in the Comox Valley suggests parents blame both government and union for the strike/lockout.
But shutting down schools now has little real impact. End-of-year events are lost, but starting summer holidays two weeks early doesn’t pose much of a threat to learning.
Government can wait out the strike without much pressure from parents. Based on the first reports on weekend bargaining, that appears to be what has happened.
And starting today, a typical teacher will be losing about $350 a day in gross pay. Union strike pay is $50 a day, but the fund is virtually empty.
By the end of the week, an average teacher will be out $1,750, the equivalent of a 2.4-per-cent raise. 
Strikes and lockouts are part of bargaining. But they’re destructive, and usually launched as a last resort. 
It’s hard to see the B.C. Teachers’ Federation at such a point. There is no obvious deadline for a new contract to be reached. The union is probably nervous - rightly - that the government would use the length of negotiations as a reason to impose a contract. But a strike now doesn’t change that and might strengthen the government’s position.
If a deal isn’t reached in the next two weeks, the strike could make reaching a settlement more difficult. Teachers would be out $3,000 or $4,000, and some would expect the union to get that money back in a new contract.
And the union has limited its options for job action in September.
I’ll look at the issues once the information is clearer. But the BCTF's tactical decision to strike now is baffling.

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