Tuesday, February 28, 2012

BC teachers face dirty dealing BC government in high stakes bargaining poker game

Deck stacked against teachers in bargaining - F. Pamplona photo
BCTF is playing poker against opponent with ace up sleeve in contract negotiations.

Bill TIeleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday February 28, 2012

 By Bill Tieleman

"There is no gambling like politics." 
- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1868, 1874-1880
No one in their right mind would play high stakes poker against a dealer who not only uses a marked deck but also deals from the bottom of that deck and has an ace up their sleeve.

But that's the untenable position B.C. teachers now find themselves in, trying to negotiate a new contract with a provincial government that announced last week it would impose its own terms through legislation.

It's an all-in, no-win situation for teachers.

B.C. Liberal Education Minister George Abbott claims negotiations have failed, so the government has no choice.

"This isn't a situation that anyone wanted," Premier Christy Clark chimed in.

Some observers nod their heads sagely and agree -- what else can Abbott do? The teachers aren't willing to bargain, they say, it's so predictable.

Don't be fooled -- it's predictable all right -- that when the government holds all the cards, the teachers lose the game, every time.

And it's exactly what Clark and Abbott wanted -- the opportunity to bolster their flagging public support by getting tough on teachers.

With the BC Liberals down to 25 per cent in a new Forum Research poll and the BC Conservatives nipping at their heels at 22 per cent, while the New Democrats coast at 42 per cent and two by-elections imminent, things are desperate.

The pollsters even predict the NDP would win 63 of B.C.'s 85 ridings with these numbers.

And the provincial budget introduced last week only offers more pain and higher costs for British Columbians.

What options are left? Pick a fight with teachers!

Gov't gave employer no room to negotiate

The B.C. Teachers' Federation technically negotiates with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, which is the province's bargaining agent.

But talks have come to an impasse because the government doesn't want teachers to get a raise -- any raise -- unless it comes from cutting school budgets elsewhere.

That means BCPSEA doesn't have to negotiate -- can't bargain -- because the government has restricted its mandate.

Abbott's statements as minister show just how little room BCPSEA was given to work with: "The union's demands, which would add $2 billion in costs for B.C. taxpayers, are not acceptable given the current financial reality."

Leave aside that Abbott is using gigantic financial numbers to put a cost on a deal -- outlandish projections that the union totally rejects, saying $565 million is currently the price tag for their current position.

Abbott ratchets up the rhetoric even more, claiming the minimal job action to date is damaging and an actual walkout would be unacceptable.

"It is clear that this strike is hurting students and any escalation in strike action will only increase the harm to students and the impact on parents," said Abbott.

The minister, conveniently, forgets that teachers have gone out on strike several times in the past, including a two-week walkout in 2005 -- without the sky falling or students failing.

How collective bargaining works

The government has every right to take the position that there is no money for wage increases -- but so does the union to demand more money and better conditions for its members.

The whole concept of collective bargaining is that pressure is put on both sides to compromise and move to a mutually acceptable agreement that gives each some of their goals.

To apply pressure, unions can partially or fully withdraw their labour, while employers can leave them out on a picket line rather than drawing regular pay -- or even lock them out.

In public sector negotiations, unions pressure their employer -- a provincial, municipal or federal government -- by creating inconvenience that results in voters demanding an agreement be reached.

And an Environics poll commissioned by the B.C. Federation of Labour clearly shows that in this situation the public sides with teachers, at 52 per cent, rather than the government, at 39 per cent.

The same poll shows 89 per cent would agree to binding arbitration to settle the contract and just eight per cent reject it.

But the BC Liberals are obviously in that eight per cent minority, again showing their lack of interest in making a deal and instead provoking a confrontation for political gain.

Game was rigged

Even the B.C. School Trustees Association’s provincial council came out in favour of the BCTF request for a mediator rather than an immediate move to legislation.

How governments handle these disputes can make or break their political future.

But by imposing a contract without serious bargaining, never even considering putting money on the table and without allowing teachers to take real job action, this government shows the poker game was fixed from the start.

.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, as we now know, Canada is a fascist dictatorship country. The Federal Election was totally contaminated. The robocrimecons cheated. no-one I know, how in the hell Harper even got back in, let alone a majority. Now we know how. Canada has become a cesspool of corruption, because of Harper. Canada has regressed badly, because of Harper.

Campbell is Harper's favorite henchman. The dirty duo, forced the illegal HST onto the BC people. The HST has dreadfully hurt the schools budgets. The outrageous gas prices, have put the cost of school buses for kids, through the roof. Parents may have to get their kids to school, on their own dime.

Campbell of course, thieved and sold BC's assets and resources. China owns our mills and raw logs. And China owns our mines and are bringing their people over to take our jobs too. It is the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals corruption and thefts, that have destroyed BC.

BC teachers have to compare their salary's with other provinces and adjust the school week accordingly. The teachers will have to forgo the extra time they put in for the kids. They then can pick up a second job after school and on the shortened school week.

As we all know...Campbell gave his useless corrupt evil self, a $60,000 salary hike. His henchmen also got a 29% hike. And of course, we are paying those useless s.o.b's gold plated pensions.

Teachers should tell the BC Liberals, to go straight to hell. If they fine you, don't pay the bas...turds. They refuse to tax the giant wealthy corporations.

So, to hell with the BC Liberals. Or perhaps they are Northern Foundation Reformers, as Harper is. The skinheads assisted Harper to organize his shady party, back in 1989.

DPL said...

George is doing the rounds at TV stations. When asked why not call in a mediator earlier he started rattling on about constitutional requirment

Anonymous said...

Oh how horrible it is for the BC Liberals, to have to collective bargain and negotiate more money for those nasty union employees whenever contract expiry time comes up. If the BC Liberals don't come up with one excuse each time this happens as to why they don't have the money for it, then it's another sob story, which they feed the MSM in hopes that the public will sympathize .. oh oh booooh hoo hooo hooey etc.

But where was their sadness during times they found lots of money in the last 10-12 years to give tax breaks to the already wealthy?; for sometimes useless mega projects?; and in fact, to hire friends and insiders who then have very well paying jobs, perhaps work for some years under contract or whatever, bonuses for good work, incredibly awesome severance packages when they leave (CEO's and the like).

On the other hand, I know times are tough around the world, not that much of it hasn't been of the greedys'own making, and it's true, we should all be happy to have a job, and I know teachers and their unions don't believe they are actually going to get the entire monetary demands met .. but this is a government that has shown in the past, even during less tough times, that they want to pick fights with teachers and those nasty horrible public sector unions each time these contract negotiation times come up .. and yes I agree, Bill, this time it's particularly for political purposes.

Imagine, OMG apparently saying now, the govn't is open to a mediator as long as it doesn't involve any money negotiations/gains (or only if you find money elsewhere in your contract - , strip away what was previously bargained for in other words). When the legislation is introduced and it goes through the readings and it's debated, the BC Liberals will play hardball saying they simply don't have the money, which they hope will please a conservative base in hopes they will come running back to them, while the NDP might make some points in debating something like what I said above .. anyway, the Liberals have the majority which I suppose they will use again. I suppose this is being as simply a way to try to make the NDP look bad in the end and them look good.

By the way, why doesn't the government have more money? Look how long they've continued to rake in money from the HST which most people thought would be long gone by now (another sad excuse for a sob story they've fed us on that). They haven't paid back the loan to the Feds because much of it is likely used, but if they were such great money managers, like they claim the NDP were anything but, they would have had enough money to be on budget back then without the HST gift they now have to pay back, and can't find the money and it's too tight to find money for teachers, etc.

Their claims and garbage just don't add up; so much sounds unbelievable that comes out of their mouths. I think the greater public is fed up.

Anonymous said...

"Oh how horrible it is for the BC Liberals, to have to collective bargain and negotiate more money for those nasty union employees whenever contract expiry time comes up"

It was even more painful for the NDP during the 1990s.

The NDP sent the teachers back to the classroom back then too.

Anonymous said...

This government does not negotiate . They get their raise April 1st. That is all that counts. They keep saying they have 18 contracts with CUPE ,they have been ratified to save jobs. Won't happen with increases in Hydro and MSP it is a negative mandate. I urge the remaining CUPE locals to Vote against acceptance of 0 for five years if this government gets it s way. They did not negotiate it was accept by Feb. 29 th or else.

Anonymous said...

This government does not negotiate . They get their raise April 1st. That is all that counts. They keep saying they have 18 contracts with CUPE ,they have been ratified to save jobs. Won't happen with increases in Hydro and MSP it is a negative mandate. I urge the remaining CUPE locals to Vote against acceptance of 0 for five years if this government gets it s way. They did not negotiate it was accept by Feb. 29 th or else.

and so why does CUPE figure they earn increaes when everyone else the in the public sector does not?

Anonymous said...

Campbell gave his useless corrupt evil self, a $60,000 salary hike. His henchmen also got a 29% hike. And of course, we are paying those useless s.o.b's gold plated pensions.

The NDP accepted those same increases. They gave the first year's increase to charity, but they received a tax receipt for doing so. The NDP and their supporters are very hyprocritical on that issue.

"Well, as we now know, Canada is a fascist dictatorship country."

That poster is full of bullshit.

kootcoot said...

I find it disgusting that the bobble head Abbott wants to fine the union 1.3 mil per day of "illegal" strike and the individual teachers $475 per day while Christy and her psuedo government still haven't addressed the court judgement against them for their illegal behaviour back when Crusty Christy herself was Minister of (mis)Education.

Obviously I don't want to fine the government for non-compliance, as then we taxpayers pay the fine, having already funded the government's doomed defense of their indefensible position, but how's about some PERSONAL accountability for Christy, Gordo et. al. for their brazen trampling of workers' rights over the last decade.

With Harper in Ottawa and the BC liaRs in Victoria, labor unions are for all practical purposes illegal and workers have to suck it up and show up for work on the employers' terms or be replaced with temporary workers from abroad.

Anonymous said...

I find it disgusting that the bobble head Abbott wants to fine the union 1.3 mil per day of "illegal" strike and the individual teachers $475 per day while Christy and her psuedo government still haven't addressed the court judgement against them for their illegal behaviour back when Crusty Christy herself was Minister of (mis)Education.

THatw as decided upon in court.

Maybe Koot would care to justify teachers receiving 10 weeks bereavement leave for when a friend kicks the can.

Or perhaps Koot can justify a 15% wage increase when many people including myself have not received a wage increase.

The BCTF has had a history of politicizing the collective bargining process and makes a joke out of it.

and spare the whining about what's it's like in the classroom.

They knew what it was going to be like the minute they entered Educational Theory 101 in their first year.

Anonymous said...

but how's about some PERSONAL accountability for Christy, Gordo et. al. for their brazen trampling of workers' rights over the last decade.

would that also apply to the trampling of worker's rights under an Adrian Dix government, there Koot?

oh right yes, that wouldn't exist.

If the BCGEU decided to strike, and put a picket line around the Legilature the NDP MLAs would have already been inside before the picket line was up on Monday morning, right?

Anonymous said...

Dear Bill,

I could kiss you! As a BC teacher, who genuinely cares about the welfare of the students and sees the necessity for a better education system, I would like to thank you so much for giving a voice to the majority of BC teachers who have just that interest in mind! The issues of most highest importance have been grossly misrepresented and it is very disheartening to see the information that is constantly being spoon fed to the public by the government and the media. So again, I thank you for sharing the frightening injustice and disservice that is lurking around underneath the glossy surface... courtesy of the good old BC government.

cory garras said...

wow anti-liberal? its great to hear you all complain about whats going on without taking the time to actually make change. I am in the private sector and if I complained about my job, about how much I make and how I want it to be easier for myself at a cost of the employer (tax payers in this case), I would get fired. But, we have unions! A couple comments mentioned gas prices on the rise? They are all union works at full efficiency I bet! The school system is draining money. It was when we were NDP in the province as well. Chucking money at it wont fix it. Making efficient changes will. Dont blame a party for this, because as soon as they want to make a change for the best of all, the union will shoot it down. Others say that teachers make more in other provinces. Alberta (oil money) and Ontario (manufacturing). Do you want pipelines throughout BC, because you cant have it both. Ontario was crushing it in years past and they had the money to throw around to avoid these situations. Do you think they are pumped on these decisions now? They have no money and are going into debt. Would the teachers/union take a pay decrease to help the system and the kids? You already know that question.

Dont blame a party a system that has failed and one that every government has been apart of. There are no facts in place to say that 30 kid class sizes are better then 35. Schools are expensive and until somebody comes to the table with real change, nothing will.

Anonymous said...

I work in the private sector. My yearly take home is pretty much the same now as it was ten years ago and I work much longer hours than any public service person I know. I don't get the 15% raise teachers want especially with fewer and fewer kids in BC schools every year. Teachers are upset that teacher assistant jobs have replaced teacher jobs and I think this is a fair complaint. This said, our teachers have seen pay increases of 14-25% from 2006-2011. I'd love to see that type of pay increase and I have no cushy pension to look forward to, no paid education opportunities, no extended health plan, no paid leaves for illness, family and personal time, and no automatic pay raise for education and experience. I love teachers but sorry guys and gals I for one am not with you on this one. I think our teachers have a pretty great deal and will retire with amazing benefits that most of the rest of us will never see. Hopefully a mediator can find a fair solution that serves British Columbians as a whole, not just one group.