Letters to the Editor

Letter: Binding arbitration only way to fair conclusion

To the editor:

I have been a secondary teacher in B.C. for the past 14 years. In that time I have been subject to contract stripping, days of protest, essential services legislation, strike votes, illegal walkouts, employer-driven lockouts and sanctioned strikes.

I went into teacher training and chose this career path because I wanted to work with adolescents to help them learn skills that would enable them to become contributing members of society who could impact their communities in positive ways and live fulfilling lives.

I am frustrated by the demands placed on me by the union and the employer, as explained above, and am tired, in fact fatigued, by this dispute.

I have seen the maximum number of students in my class balloon from 24 to as many as 33.  This was in a Grade 11/12 woodwork class where safety of the students required that they could not meet the outcomes that I expect from a normal sized class. For comparison, college trades courses with adult students (referred to as mature students, I assume for a reason) have a hard maximum at 16.

The only time that there has been a successful end to a contract dispute with teachers in this province since I started teaching was with a mediated settlement. It still took two weeks of strike to get there and impacted students, parents, teachers and the community at large.

I have heard both sides say that they want a fair deal: Fair for teachers, fair for the taxpayer.

I have also heard both sides say that this bargaining system is broken, in fact none other than my school’s MLA, Christy Clark, has stated this herself.

In light of all of this disagreement and actual agreement (regarding the broken system), I have a proposal.

Both sides need to enter into binding arbitration with an arbitrator who is armed with the ability to come to an equitable settlement. Both sides need to agree on the arbitrator and must accept the binding nature of the arbitrator’s findings.

If they can do this, they will end up with a fair settlement. That is the point of arbitration.

In fact, there is one style of arbitration that awards the entire ruling to the side that chooses the fairest proposal (think of it as collective bargaining a la curling—closest to the button wins). This format forces both sides to put forward their most fair proposal from the outset to avoid being too far away from ‘the button’ and generally both sides end up quickly and significantly close together.

How would this impact the rest of the people caught up in the debate?

• Teachers would not be on strike

• Students would have class and all of their final year performances and graduation ceremonies

• Parents would have security knowing that their children will not be impacted by strikes or lockouts

• The taxpayer would know that the arbitrator is providing the fairest settlement possible so their financial interests would be secure.

Binding arbitration would result in a lot of stress and pressure for the bargainers on both sides, and very little for everyone else in the system. It seems like the sensible thing to do and I believe that the entirety of B.C. might delight in a therapeutic session of schadenfreude in regards to the bargainer’s misery that might go a long way to mending the divisions between the different groups.

My proposal has one other thing going for it: If either or both sides don’t entertain this as a viable option and are unwilling to try a tested dispute resolution technique, then they are making a clear statement to the people of B.C.: That they are not interested in coming to a fair conclusion to this dispute.

If that is the case then we know that they are more interested in the fight than the resolution.

John Kramer,

technology education teacher,

Central Okanagan

 

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