It may be big news for the adults, but when the kids head back to school next week after spring break, chances are they will see little difference in the classroom as a result of provincial legislation ending the teachers so-called strike.
Despite the tough talk prior to bringing in the legislation, known as Bill 22, the government actually took a pretty soft line—not settling anything but attempting to buy more time to try and get a deal done with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation some time before the next school year starts in September.
But given the lines drawn in the sand by both sides, its hard to see any common ground that will lead to a negotiated contract.
Despite the rhetoric, the teachers were not ordered back to work because they never stopped working. What they didn’t do was stuff outside the classroom. And, with the exception of the Grade 12 students who needed report cards for early university admission applications, the work-to-rule was not having that much of an impact on the day-to-day education of B.C.’s kids.
In most cases, teachers were available to talk to parents about how their kids were doing in class, so parents were not left in the dark. They just had to make the effort to ask.
But, after six months, the government felt enough was enough and passed legislation last week making any sort of job action illegal. And if teachers thumb their noses at the legislation, they, as individuals, as well as BCTF officials and the federation itself, face hefty fines.
So while the kids enjoy their time off, the adults are hard at work bickering.
At its annual general meeting Monday, the BCTF mulled how it will respond to Bill 22, legislation it feels is the greatest affront to democracy ever. But, short of illegal strikes, their options appear limited.
They do not have to participate in extra-curricular activities, so those things may be the first to go when school resumes. As for kids learning in the classroom, chances are that will continue unabated.
So, it seems, the name-calling, chest-pounding and vitriol from both sides, capped by legislation, has only produced the return of mid-term report cards.
Bill 22 does not settle anything, it merely tries to get negotiations going. And given the current climate, that’s not likely. Mediation at this stage would appear to be a moot point.
Both sides claim the moral high ground in this argument—the teachers are doing it for the kids and the government is looking out for taxpayers. But the bottom line is both sides are looking out for themselves.
We tell kids it’s important to get along with each other, to compromise, to communicate and respect differences.
But those appear to be lessons the adults in this current war of words either never learned or have forgotten.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.