Monday, June 23, 2014

Time for BCTF, government to prepare for fall legislated settlement (and save summer school)

I’m sure Vince Ready is busy. But I expect he also decided against getting involved in the teachers’ strike/lockout because there is no real chance of a mediated settlement now.
In a past life I was involved in labour negotiations. In one difficult set of talks, a mediator was appointed to help us reach a deal. He arrived, met with management and union, and booked out less than an hour later. The parties were too far apart, he said, and mediation would be a waste of time. Good luck.
That’s true in this dispute. There are too many issues on the table, the parties are too far apart and there’s no sign that either side really wants a deal. The BCTF’s goofy strike tactic, at a time when the government feels under no pressure from parents or public, served only to cost teachers an average $3,500 in lost pay and, by increasing their expectations, make a deal less likely. 
If the parties were really keen on a negotiated settlement, they wouldn’t have spent the last week exchanging insults through the media.
There are useful things that could be done now. The parties could agree on an independent costing of current proposals, for example. That might help identify potential areas of compromise. 
But I’d expect the dispute to continue into September. Barring creative solutions - which are possible but unlikely - a legislated settlement would be imposed just before school resumes, or after a couple of weeks of strike.
That means both sides should be focusing on winning public support for their positions on key issues. If government believes the public broadly supports the teachers, the back-to-work legislation will provide at least some gains. If not, the union will fare less well.
For the union, that means dropping proposals unlikely to win public support, like improvements to an already generous benefits plan. It means recognizing that a salary deal is going to look very much like other public sector settlements. And it means focusing on class size and composition issues.
For the government, that means quitting bargaining in public, stopping the expense of taxpayers’ money on ad campaigns fighting the union and come up with a serious response to the court rulings on class size and composition.
Practically, that means the BCTF should immediately announce that summer school classes will go ahead. There is no benefit to striking over the summer - it won’t put pressure on management to settle. And shutting down summer school will cost the union parents’ support and deprive some members of income they were counting on. (The government has already lifted the lockout for summer school.)


Anonymous said...

The BC Liberals are NOT interested in making a deal with the teachers now: this is all part of their perpetual campaign - it is uncontested and publicly available in court documents.

I am sorry that the teachers are lacking discipline in this skirmish and falling into the BC Liberal's slimy pit.

Cocoabean said...

As much as we may despise the current administration we should remember that in terms of tax take the future (of a no-growth, high-cost, higher unemployment economy) looks GRIM.

LNG? A boondoggle which, even in the remote chance that it pans out, would provide only a handful of expensive grunt labour jobs. And tax revenue: the governments are salivating, desperate for funding that increasingly can only come from the straight selling-off of resources.

The amounts spent on social programs, including government schools and health care, will have to be greatly curtailed in coming years and breaking this expensive union might just be the responsible thing to do. And a popular one too...

Anonymous said...

I think this situation is going to be acrimonious for a very time, especially if it is a legislated settlement. I think you'll see this in relations between teachers and administrators: a lot more passive-aggressive resistance will be taking place, with individual teachers choosing to certain things for other things which they see as more important. For example, an intermediate elementary teacher might choose to spend her lunch hour or after school helping a student with his far-below-grade-level reading ability because there is no LRT/CEA support available, and in return for that she decides to stop volunteering her as the school's girls' volleyball team coach. I'm sure the parents of the volleyball team members might be pissed but the parent of the weak reader would greatly appreciate the one on one. In this case, the needs of the one far exceed the needs of the more. The admin would have to pick up the slack there.