Before taking the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to task for its stratospheric contract demands, the following should be acknowledged.
The value and importance of teachers is indisputable. The great majority are passionate educators, dedicated to turning out well-balanced young people ready to face the challenges before them.
Now enter the BCTF bargaining position, and reality rapidly fades.
Among the demands currently on the table are wage increases – undefined as yet, but ostensibly on par with the highest paid teachers in the country, which could translate into as much as 20 per cent salary hikes.
Add to that more benefits, including doubling the provision for bereavement leave to 10 days on the death of any friend or relative, and 26 weeks off each year as a fully paid leave to provide compassionate care to any person.
The government has said the demands would amount to an additional $2.2 billion each year.
In 2006, teachers endorsed a five-year agreement, which included a rich 16 per cent wage hike.
Things were much different then. The global economy hadn’t tanked. It was three years before the B.C. government imposed a zero wage increase mandate on the public service.
The province wasn’t running a $45-billion debt. It wasn’t trying to balance the budget after a string of deficits. And taxpayers hadn’t just voted down the HST, incurring a return to the PST that will see a $1.6-billion repayment to Ottawa, and some $3 billion in additional revenue lost in the next few years.
In short, this province is in no fiscal position to entertain the BCTF’s fantasies.
That’s the real world, and it’s time the BCTF lived in it.
Address the issue that impacts students the most – classroom size and composition.
That might even garner public support.