Friday, October 7, 2011

Negotiation, a fruitless process in education

Almost six years ago, Vince Ready, in an interim report to the BC Liberal government about relations with teachers, commented:
"…the parties have not concluded meaningful negotiations in the decade since the Public Education Labour Relations Act established the present bargaining structure. It is clear that, unless both sides are committed to collective bargaining, the process will be fruitless no matter what system is adopted or legislated.

"...It is trite to say that free collective bargaining carries with it the responsibility to make it work. That responsibility lies mainly with the parties."
In 1998, BC's NDP government imposed a labour contract after recalcitrant school trustees rejected a negotiated agreement approved by teachers. In 2002, Campbell Liberals legislated the next contract, which removed non-monetary gains achieved by teachers four years before. Liberals subsequently passed legislation further reducing the bargaining rights of teachers.  In 2005, after negotiations for a new agreement failed, legislation arbitrarily extended the previous contract. A province wide walk-out of teachers resulted but was ended with a mediated settlement.

In February 2007, in his Final Report for Collective Bargaining Option, Ready reminded the parties that,
 "At the very heart of the labour relations system which governs participants in collective bargaining is the need to compromise, to seek new and creative solutions and to take a pragmatic and disciplined approach to differences which develop in the relationship."
Ready's continuing efforts followed recommendations made by the Wright Commission in 2004 aimed at establishing “mature collective bargaining.” According to the Commission, success required "an attitudinal and behavioral change on both sides." The five year contract negotiated in 2006 gave some hope that had been achieved.

However, negotiations in 2011 indicate that 2006 was an aberration. The parties again are apart and it has been clear for months that a voluntary agreement can only be achieved through the surrender on every issue by the teachers' union.

Vince Ready's advice of some years ago has been thrown into the waste basket by the provincial government. It is not good faith bargaining when one side refuses compromise and threatens publicly to lockout then impose an agreement by legislation if the other side fails to capitulate fully. It seems certain the BC Liberal government has no intention of negotiating an agreement of any sort with teachers. Even the reluctant promise to add partial funding needed for special needs students is a defensive ploy aimed at defusing sanctions from the Supreme Court after its ruling that teachers' constitutional rights were violated when the province removed class size and composition from collective bargaining.

I believe the Liberal government views its disputes with teachers as politically worthwhile. Schools seem to have insatiable appetites for funding and the payback from establishing excellence in education is very long term, therefore of little interest to politicians concerned about the next election. Unfortunately, the employer's interest in confrontation has radicalized the teachers union and helped create an atmosphere of mutual disrespect. That is unfortunate because the numerous teachers I know would happily trade higher salaries for improved teaching and learning conditions. Remuneration is only a part of job satisfaction and much could be achieved by engaging educators in solutions to non-monetary problems.

However, a Premier with ADHD is incapable of establishing the real initiatives needed to improve education in British Columbia. Hopes that an intelligent and far sighted education minister might follow Vince Ready's clear advice of five years ago seem dashed. George Abbott so far has demonstrated that he is not up for the high road and he intends to maintain a slavish low road course of provocation, threat and insult.
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8 comments:

  1. To be clear, the 1998 contract was not "imposed on BC teachers". Rather it was imposed on the employer. 1998 was the first and only settlement negotiated directly by the government and the leadership of the BCTF. It was voted upon and ratified by teachers.
    Glen Clark

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  2. Baldry said on the Friday morning idiot hour that the government will eventually impose a contract on the teachers, and their seniority will be taken from them. I don't know where Baldry gets his info but if it's true I can see allot of teachers over 55 retiring on the spot.
    They can do this with very little penalty to their pensions, plus it would create such a teacher shortage that Abbot might have to go back to teaching.

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  3. You can bet the Libs intend to create a game changer, hoping to eliminate what is their looming political death. There are few choices left to villify; the BCTF is one.

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  4. With Campbell's thieving of our assets and resources..The Campbell/Clark BC Liberals outrageous salary's, gold plated pensions, million a year C.E.O's. Severance payouts to the useless members. Stealing our tax dollars to pay for criminals legal fee's. Jet setting around the globe. Ministers who eat their way through $6,000 per year, for fine dining. Just to name very few of the BC Liberals abuses.

    Harper and Campbell worked hand in hand to dismantle BC. Harper was drooling at the mouth for BC's HST. Did he or Scumbag Campbell care about, the BC citizens, who lost their jobs, their homes, vehicles and everything they had, because of the recession? Absolutely not. That rotten,evil pair, forced the HST on us anyway.

    Would the Campbell/Clark and the BC Liberals, take a roll back in their salary's? Don't die laughing. This province is in utter financial ruin, because of them and Harper. Campbell tripled our debt. He used deliberate deceit to do so. There is not one BC Liberal, worth the powder to blow them to hell.

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  5. Anonymous 10:45 am is correct about 1998. About 75% of teachers voted to ratify the negotiated agreement despite it including a wage freeze for almost two years.

    British Columbia Public School Employers' Association rejected the agreement and the Clark NDP government imposed an agreement by legislation. My original wording inadequately described the situation by stating, "The provincial government imposed a labour contract on BC teachers in 1998..." The wording is now changed.

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  6. There are two main strategies at work here.

    The first, is to transfer schooling to the private sector, for profit. They already do this with private schools in the K to 12 using ever increasing provincial funding of parochial schools, and they do with corporate funding at universities.

    Their second and related objective is to eliminate or inhibit any critical thinking of the student body. This move is supported using religious fundamentals and economic manipulation.

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  7. Surely, they only want to transfer part of schooling to private facilities. The rural groups, the learning disabled, those with physical and mental handicaps and behavioural problems will be left to the public sector. Private industry has their eye only on the school population most conducive to profitable operation.

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