To the editor:
The relationship between the B.C. government and the British Columbia Teachers Federation is revolting. And I mean that literally. There is a revolution at hand. This revolution is not perpetrated by some rebel group against our government. It is the other way around. The BCTF was in a position of power from 1989 or so until 2002 when class size and class composition became part of the collective agreement.
After the NDP got the boot, the government, school boards and administrator groups vehemently bemoaned this “loss of the farm.” That is why Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark took it upon themselves to strip the contract to nothing. It was like an act of war.
Now, after two court cases that have unequivocally said that this “act of war” was wrong, the government is still on the attack.
Those on the management side, consider class size and class composition to be matters of policy. The BCTF consider them to be directly related to learning and working conditions. Herein lies the conflict.
The problem, as I see it, is that they are both partially right. On the one hand, it is not up to the employee to direct the operations of a company. For example, if I worked for Company X that made it their policy to produce 250 widgets a day, it would not be my decision to increase or decrease the number of widgets made. I might complain if they increased the number, but after my eight hour shift, I would just go home, or maybe work overtime. They might say that if I didn’t like it, I could work elsewhere.
I know that many of you reading this are shuddering that I’m comparing children to widgets. Well, I’m not. I’m just making a point.
So, on the other hand, we have teachers who have no say about how many children and those with special needs they can have in their classrooms. Their union’s argument is that this is, in fact, all about working and learning conditions. For example, if a teacher went from 30 students, including eight students with learning disabilities, and/or behaviour problems, to 24 students including two special needs students, their work load would decrease. Who can argue against that?
But the problem is they both want to be completely in the right. Could anyone possibly imagine a world where the BCTF and the government actually worked together on this? Well, I have news for you. You only have to drive eight hours to Alberta and find a much more collegial relationship between employer and employee. Not perfect, mind you, but maybe more professional, human, less “warlike” perhaps?
In the meantime, I’m doing an unscientific survey about the actual duties teachers perform in their jobs. I’d really appreciate your input. Please go to www.richardjamesknight.com to complete the survey. Leave some contact information and I’ll put your name into a draw for $50.