Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Luongo-Term Contract Lesson for BC Teachers: Vancouver Canucks' goalie says it "sucks" - why would teachers want one?

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo - Allie from Vancity photo
Canucks goalie's plight shows how decade-long deals spell trouble 

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver/The Tyee column

Tuesday July 2, 2013

By Bill Tieleman

"My contract sucks. I'd scrap it if I could right now."
- Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, April 2013

What do British Columbia teachers and Roberto Luongo have in common?
They all think that decade-long contracts suck.

Luongo -- who is back to being the Canucks number one goalie after the shocking trade of Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday -- has over nine years left on his massive $64-million, 12-year deal.
Luongo said it "sucks" earlier this year because he was ready to move on to another NHL team -- but the duration and cost of his existing contract scared away all other owners.

It's an object lesson in the perils of long -- or Luongo -- term contracts that hasn't been lost on B.C. teachers.

If even a contract that will pay Luongo a massive $40.57 million 'til it ends is such a problem, why would teachers sign a 10-year term?

That's why they voted last week by 96 per cent to reject the BC Liberal government plan for a 10-year collective agreement.
Taking the long view
Watching the Luongo drama, it's not hard to see why teachers gave a thumbs-down to the BC Liberal idea -- which was part of its successful election campaign platform but hardly a key plank.
What's more difficult to see is exactly why Premier Christy Clark wants a deal that long when so many factors from B.C.'s economy to government revenue to enrollment can change dramatically.
After all, if B.C. suffers a financial downturn during the 10 years, the only alternative to breaking a binding contract would be to layoff large numbers of teachers and staff while gutting the education system.
That kind of move would anger parents, students, teachers and staff alike.
But Clark has pulled the rug out from under apparently productive talks that had been taking place for some time to impose the 10-year mandate.
And she has yanked the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, which was negotiating with the BCTF, replacing their team with Peter Cameron, a former militant union activist before he switched sides years ago to bargain for BC Liberal government employers.
Ice the deal
One has to wonder whether replacing fruitful negotiations with the 10-year mandate is merely to ensure the BC Liberals can say they tried to meet their election pledge and blame teachers for not succeeding, or if it is more sinister -- the first step towards unilaterally legislating a 10-year deal over the strong objections of the BC Teachers' Federation.
The latter would guarantee unnecessary labour unrest and a court challenge that would likely overturn the imposed contract if past legal history of battles between teachers and the government are any indication. 
And it would ensure that the BCTF only increases its public antagonism towards the BC Liberals, though perhaps that would be the goal.
But if Clark truly wants to succeed at building a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with teachers, it's time to put the 10-year deal -- like Luongo -- on ice.


Anonymous said...

96% of whom voted? Exactly what is 96% of the entire BCTF membership
in terms of number of members who actually voted in favour?

DPL said...

A ten year contract is no good. Both sides would be bound so if big events came up, what do you do. Three years is pretty long as far as most of us can see.

Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous apples and oranges comparison. Last time I looked there was no other government looking to scoop up the BCTF and move them to their province or state. BCTF has no where else to go. They have just one potential employee.

Given the BCTF's complete inability to separate their allegiance to the NDP from the good of their members and the students they serve, a 10 year deal is an excellent way to go. Less squabbling and more focus on the job at hand.