Saturday, August 30, 2014

By Deliberately Breaking Media Blackout Agreement, Education Minister Peter Fassbender Hurt Chances to Get a Deal

"Media blackout? What media blackout?"  Peter Fassbender at the microphones - 24 Hours photo
Fassbender's media tour jeopardizes negotiations at a critical juncture.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 26, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

It's good to shut up sometimes."
- French mime Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007
Education Minister Peter Fassbender knows his reading, writing and arithmetic.
And Fassbender knows that last week he flagrantly broke an agreement by both sides in the teachers' strike to observe a media blackout so bargaining would take place at the negotiating table, not via press release.
What Fassbender may not know or care about is that he has seriously hurt the chances of B.C. students getting back to classes on Sept. 2 by jeopardizing negotiations at a critical juncture, with veteran mediator Vince Ready finally considering joining the talks.
Fassbender is not only education minister; he is also a trained professional communicator, an ex-senior executive at DDB Canada (formerly Palmer Jarvis), one of the country's biggest marketing and communications firms.
Then there is this crystal clear joint statement issued Aug. 14 by the BC Teachers' Federation and the BC Public School Employers' Association: "The parties agreed that they will not engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Mr. Ready."
But there he was Thursday making the rounds with multiple media outlets, talking not only about bargaining issues but actually provoking the BCTF and launching a new $350,000 website that furthers the government's bargaining position.
Before that, Fassbender was criticizing BCTF leaders for attending a membership meeting in Kamloops, saying they should be at the table even though no talks were scheduled.
What 'blackout' means
Let's completely rule out the possibility that Fassbender made an inadvertent mistake in violating the media blackout.
Furthermore -- and I say this as a communications consultant working with unions and a former B.C. Federation of Labour communications director -- nobody in labour relations misunderstands the meaning of the words "media blackout."
For example, here's what the University of New Brunswick posted about a media blackout during negotiations there earlier this year:
"This blackout includes communications via traditional and social media channels and e-communications including this website. We will continue to work toward providing answers to submitted questions and reply once the blackout is lifted," UNB's administration wrote.
The BC Liberal government approach also damaged the fragile relationship between BCTF president Jim Iker and Fassbender-appointed BCPSEA negotiator Peter Cameron just when establishing some trust is most needed.
Cameron, a veteran at bargaining from both the employer and union side of the table, has been put in a terrible position because now Iker must doubt his ability to deliver on what he says in talks -- a critical element in reaching agreement. And both sides acknowledge that the two chief negotiators have been talking privately.
If Cameron's bosses don't honour his word, why would the BCTF believe him, no matter how sincere?
Intentional tactic
But the smartest people in Christy Clark's office think they know better than those with decades of experience.
Only a professional communicator like Fassbender could keep a straight face while delivering lines like this to CKNW's Michael Smyth on Thursday: "I am absolutely respecting the media blackout on details of negotiations."
Fassbender's excuse -- that he has an obligation as minister to talk to media despite the blackout in order to inform parents -- is misleading in the extreme, because Fassbender is the employer spokesperson, the guy who Cameron reports to.
Nothing Fassbender said Friday was new. The government's positions on all issues, including the crazy "pay the parents $40 a day" for kids not going to school scheme, have been public for weeks.
Make no mistake: Fassbender doing interviews wasn't his decision. It was clearly made in the office of Premier Christy Clark.
The premier and her advisors sent Fassbender out to break the media blackout with an intentional plan to either scuttle the talks or, more likely, further demoralize teachers who want to get back to their classrooms.
That dubious tactic will likely backfire, because now whatever happens in negotiations, parents will rightly see the government as having played chicken with their kids' education.
Risking the strike continuing into mid-October is more evidence that the government's real target is teachers and their union, not reaching a negotiated agreement so school starts on time.
It's a no class approach.

.


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you have to sat pitch black

Ron S. said...

This government has never had any class since 2001 Bill. The only was to overcome a classless bunch like this is to vote them out. We missed our chance last time but we're only 3 years away from the next one and this classless bunch will still be fumbling the ball.

vadne said...

I am more than certain that Factbender knew exactly what he was doing by breaking the media blackout agreement. Everything that the government has done has been calculated and calculating. The best thing that is happening now is that at every turn they are handing ammunition to the opposition to use against them in the next election, and then we will see what kind of rodents leave the sinking ship.

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't have to "use ammunition" against them in the next election: they should be forbidden to run in the next election BECAUSE of their skullduggery. That is the only just punishment: exclusion from the possibility of running in the next election. They deserve a Time Out.
7 4

Anonymous said...

"We shouldn't have to "use ammunition" against them in the next election: they should be forbidden to run in the next election BECAUSE of their skullduggery"

B.S. It's a democracy and if Fassbender and company wants to seek re-election they have the right to so.

By your line of thinking, Adrian Dix should not run in the next election because he failed miserably in the last one.


DPL said...

Binding Arbitration anyone!!!
I believe the teachers would do OK with a couple of BC Supreme Court rulings to back them up

Anonymous said...

"Binding Arbitration anyone!!!"

Should have been done in July.

"I believe the teachers would do OK with a couple of BC Supreme Court rulings to back them up"

Sure, but only if the rulings favour the teachers, right?

Fire Iker.

e.a.f. said...

who expected a lieberal to live up to their agreements? Fassbender wouldn't know when to keep his mouth shut, if you gave him an instruction booklet.

This "strike/lockout" will still be going in Nov.

Nestaken Squire said...

Well once again the previous commenters are mainly pro the teachers and of most important, pro children as are the teachers. However, one or more comment has supported the govt. I only wish Mrs. Clark would stopping hiding behind the Anonymous handle.

Anonymous said...

"who expected a lieberal to live up to their agreements?"

It's always the same old thing. What about the BCTF and their over the top benefit demands?? $3000 in massage therapy a year? Fertility drugs subsidized 100%?

"Fassbender wouldn't know when to keep his mouth shut, if you gave him an instruction booklet."

This "strike/lockout" will still be going in Nov.

Sure it will. Because of Iker too. Iker hasn't budged at all. He can't keep his mouth shut either.

Anonymous said...

Also worth noting is that the teachers were given the right to strike by Bill's friend former Premier Bill VanderZalm, the one that started this 20 year war in the first place.

Anonymous said...

outsourcing?

http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2014/09/is-there-privatization-strategy-behind.html

Anonymous said...

So how does one explain Jim Iker speaking out almost at the same time?

Cocoabean said...

If there's ever to be a chance of stopping the continuous growth in education costs, year-in and year-out, we'd better hope that the government stands firm here.

In a no-real-growth economic environment and with the public and private debt loads we see, there can be no justification for any salary or cost increase not justified by a corresponding rise in profitability...and education must start recognizing that cost IS a factor.

Perhaps it is time to expose these employees to the free market...? There are a lot of people out there very well-qualified to do their jobs, far more cost-efficiently...

OR we can go on artificially protecting an ever more out-of-control and ultimately unsustainable system...

e.a.f. said...

Its the Union members who put forth the bargaining demands. Then its usually the bargaining committee which goes through them and decides which go forward. The Union demands are what the members want. Things which make it to the bargaining table are not the "idea" of any one person. For demands to make it to the bargaining table, as a rule, there is a "demand" for it from the Union members.

Don't blame Iker for representing what his members have asked for. It isn't his job to tell the members, no they won't bargain for the things they want.

Fassbender spoke first. The Union President's job is to go for it, right after that. It might be instructive for people to understand what a Union and a Union President's job is. It is not to represent the interests of the parents, the employers, the government, or the kids. Its the job of a Union and its president to represent the interests of their members. If the members are unhappy, trust me, they will let their leadership know.

Right now I see more voters/citizens telling the government they aren't happy than teachers telling Iker they aren't happy.

It really is time for binding arbitration. Union/Management organizations have been using it for a very long time. It does work. Binding arbitration is one of those things, where the results are more like, well not everybody is happy, but most of us can live with it.

Will binding arbitration happen? Doubt it. The lieberal game plan doesn't include that. In the end they will simply legislate the teachers back to work and impose a "contract". The teachers will go to court and the "fun" will start all over again. Eventually the education system in B.C. will become non functional. Teachers will leave and make oh so much more money as private tutors.

Anonymous said...

"Its the Union members who put forth the bargaining demands. Then its usually the bargaining committee which goes through them and decides which go forward. The Union demands are what the members want. Things which make it to the bargaining table are not the "idea" of any one person. For demands to make it to the bargaining table, as a rule, there is a "demand" for it from the Union members."

So union members place a demand for fertility drugs and $3000 a year in massage therapies even though this has nothing to do with the classroom?

The same for the $5000 signing bonus? Are there options for the members to vote on or it is just this is the list, take or leave it?

"Don't blame Iker for representing what his members have asked for. It isn't his job to tell the members, no they won't bargain for the things they want."

I kind of wonder about that. It's not showing leadership if he doesn't go back to the membership and say "look, we have a bit of a stalemate, we need to revisit our demands.."

"Fassbender spoke first. The Union President's job is to go for it, right after that. It might be instructive for people to understand what a Union and a Union President's job is. It is not to represent the interests of the parents, the employers, the government, or the kids. Its the job of a Union and its president to represent the interests of their members. If the members are unhappy, trust me, they will let their leadership know."

Well that certainly qualifies the lie that the BCTF has been feeding the public about "it's for the kids" and the union members bought that line and are selling it to the public. The same line that will come out with the BCNU, and previously with the BCGEU and CUPE. It's rarely about service to the public and more about union members wanting more.

"Right now I see more voters/citizens telling the government they aren't happy than teachers telling Iker they aren't happy. "

It's changing rapidly. Many parents I've seen are more irritated at the BCTF than they are with the government right now.

Don't expect the majority of parents to be onside with the BCTF, as many of them know about the $5000 signing bonus per teacher and the fertility drugs and massage therapies. Where is the money supposed to come from to pay for all that junk? If there is money it should go to improving education. When I was in school many classes had 30 kids in them.

It really is time for binding arbitration. Union/Management organizations have been using it for a very long time. It does work. Binding arbitration is one of those things, where the results are more like, well not everybody is happy, but most of us can live with it.

Will binding arbitration happen? Doubt it. The lieberal game plan doesn't include that. In the end they will simply legislate the teachers back to work and impose a "contract". The teachers will go to court and the "fun" will start all over again. Eventually the education system in B.C. will become non functional. Teachers will leave and make oh so much more money as private tutors.

cocoabean said...

Binding arbitration would do nothing to reduce education spending...in fact, it would add to the problem, almost guaranteeing some kind of salary/benefit increase to the teachers when the real issue at stake here is the long-term financial viability of government schooling.

It will be - and now has been - rejected.

cocoabean said...

http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/Vaughn+Palmer+binding+arbitration+Liberals+fooled/10179417/story.html

My point made! Arbitration shows no interest in financial goals, fiscal reality or in the public's willingness or ability to pay...

Because of Canada's UK and European heritage, we are burdened with a pro-labour body of law and with an adversarial system mandating collective "bargaining", all the while pretending the process is "fair" and that "negotiations" and "agreements" are the result...

I think the government might be wise to fight that history.

Anonymous said...

Because of Canada's UK and European heritage, we are burdened with a pro-labour body of law and with an adversarial system mandating collective "bargaining", all the while pretending the process is "fair" and that "negotiations" and "agreements" are the result...

Partially correct. Not many now, but back in the 1980s many labour leaders such as Jim Kinnard came from the Midlands and Coal Country and brought the rather combative labour environment here with them.

But remember it was VanderZalm that started it all, after he provided legislation that gave the BCTF the right to strike.