A modest proposal

The provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation are responsible for the dysfunctional state of collective bargaining.

Both the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation are responsible for the dysfunctional state of collective bargaining in the K-12 system. This isn’t my assessment alone. It’s also the assessment of Commissioner Don Wright, who investigated this issue in 2004, and of mediator Vince Ready in 2007.

The dysfunctional relationship between the B.C. government (including when the NDP were in power) and the BCTF has led to all but one collective agreement being legislated since 1994.

That single “successful” five-year collective agreement in 2006 occurred after an illegal strike by the teachers, a court fine against the BCTF for contempt, and the appointment of Ready as a facilitator.

But a number of long-standing issues still remained unresolved, especially the issues of class size and composition and the BCTF’s desire to return to district bargaining rather than the provincial bargaining structure the NDP imposed on them in 1994. The problem with the current structure is that if the government doesn’t like what the BCTF is proposing or it wants to reduce education spending it can simply push the BCTF up against the wall, force the teachers to strike and then use this as an excuse to legislate a new collective agreement in the name of “protecting B.C.’s school children.”

We need a different system and I proposed this week that Don Wright’s 2004 recommendations be implemented. That would put a new structure to the collective bargaining process leading to binding arbitration if negotiations are not successful. I also proposed $280 million in new money for the education system from a restoration of the industrial school tax that Gordon Campbell cut in 2008. Please visit my web page (www.bobsimpsonmla.ca) to get a fuller version of what I’ve proposed to address this situation and prevent it from occurring again.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.