Are teachers more valuable to the government than previously advertised?
June 4, 2012
June 4, 2012
Last weekend, I suggested that the BC government would use the event of the BCTF representative assembly to further force teachers into submission regarding the extracurricular ban accepted formally by three-quarters of voting union members. I suspected that the Labour Relations Board would announce that the employers' petition to declare the "bell-to-bell" actions of teachers to be a form of strike action and therefore illegal by the terms of the cooling-off period mandated to the end of the summer by Bill 22. And I thought that, since the minister used the confluence of the BCTF annual general meeting and the spring break period to introduce Bill 22, forcing teachers' delegates to consider incurring massive fines against individual teachers, union officials and the union itself, that the government would do it again.
Why didn't this happen at the RA? I think there are two main reasons. The first is the general political failure of the government as it faces the final year of its mandate before the provincial election next May. Not only are the BC Liberals halfway behind the popularity of the opposition NDP, but they are also neck-and-neck with the newly reborn, tiny BC Conservative Party. The premier's major responses were to lead a trade delegation to China and preside over a couple of dozen investment deals in BC oil and gas development, and to formally propose a competition to change her party's name to reflect the commitment to "free enterprise." While I thought such a dismal situation would be solved by kicking the BCTF while they were down, the government saw that Bill 22 didn't help them before, and more teacher-bashing was unlikely to help them now.
Besides, if Christy Clark's priority in breaking the teachers' union was financial, then a balanced budget at the expense of defunding public education is probably a better re-election asset than scapegoating the most defiant labour organization in the province.
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