Friday, August 29, 2014

Teachers must keep picketing to put pressure on BC government - only a fair agreement with BCTF should bring down picket lines

Teachers in Coquitlam picketing - photo from Amanda Long on Twitter
By Bill Tieleman

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has publicly suggested the BCTF take down teachers' picket lines for a 2-week "cooling off period" while veteran mediator Vince Ready works with the government and BCTF negotiating teams to reach a collective agreement.

Don't do it, is my strong advice to teachers - it's a trap.

I am sure many teachers are running out of cash or into deeper debt without a pay cheque and the thought of some cash in hand is tempting, as well as the enormous pressure from media, parents and students to get school started on time.

But if teachers drop their picket lines and go back to work on September 2, it will lead to a disastrous result.

First, the pressure on the BC Liberal government is then off and it will go back to a hardline, no movement position.

Second, the BCTF will not be able to end negotiations - no matter how bad the government offers and behaviour is at the bargaining table - because it will not be able to get members back onto the picket line, nor will the public support it.

Third, Vince Ready will then put all the pressure on the BCTF to compromise far more than the government.

Don't blame Ready - that's how he and other mediators get deals - by forcing the weaker party to surrender on more and more of their demands until a deal is reached.

No one should think veteran negotiator Peter Cameron, Fassbender or Premier Christy Clark want the 2-week cooling off period to get kids back to school - they want it to get the BCTF into an impossible to get out of corner!

So teachers - don't listen to the media - some of whom are putting out some amazingly uninformed, inexperienced and contrary to all labour relations experience commentary.

It is not "reasonable" to give up the only strength you have to get a negotiated contract - a picket line that stops schools from opening.

Make no mistake, the BCTF will have to make some concessions to get a deal.

But bargaining from a position of strength - not weakness - is the only way to get an acceptable agreement.

As someone who spent 6 years as Director of Communications at the BC Federation of Labour working on many disputes; two years as an Employee Representative at the BC Labour Relations Board; and the past 16 years as a communications and strategy consultant for unions, I speak with experience.

Don't make a huge mistake and listen to the cooling off appeals - get an agreement that works for you as teachers and for your students, then go back to work.

.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Completely agree, Bill! It would be an easy trap to fall into, with disastrous results.

Anonymous said...

Your analysis is A+.

As difficult and stressful as staying the course - it is the right call for teachers to stay out until the government gets more real. A trap has been set.

All will be lost if teachers cave to this weak gambit,quarterback sneak by Christy/Fassbender and Cameron. The huge pressure that the anti public education Liberals have been championing for so many years needs to be rebuffed. A much better deal and future for students and teachers can be reached.

Bill said...

Your analysis is A+.

As difficult and stressful as staying the course - it is the right call for teachers to stay out until the government gets more real. A trap has been set.

All will be lost if teachers cave to this weak gambit, quarterback sneak by Christy/Fassbender and Cameron. The huge pressure that the anti public education Liberals have been championing for so many years needs to be rebuffed. A much better deal and future for students and teachers can be reached.

Samantha said...

As a mother of two school aged children I am disgusted by Christy Clark and her government.
Please teachers stay strong. I also think that BC parents should call Clark's bluff and happily receive $ 40 per day childcare costs. Parents should organized private home schooling. We'll see how soon the government's wants to settle. I can imagine they want to pay our $ 40 per day for all BC school age children for too long. But let's do it !

Anonymous said...

If the government stonewalls and does not bring anything to the table, and we teachers remain out past the first week of school, losing at this round will have looked good. The government might be trying to trick the BCTF into giving up its strike mandate, but it's a much weaker mandate than the 86% vote appears. The BCTF needs an exit sooner than later.

mevans said...

Thank you Mr. Tieleman. I am a student going into grade 9 and I fully support my teachers. Sure- I wanted a report card in June- sure, I want to be back at school on Tuesday- but not at any cost. Far too little has been printed about our point of view. Sure- there are a few letters from the whiny "at school because I have to be 'LOL'" crowd who were upset because they missed a field trip, a year-end party or couldn't go to summer school (because they screwed around all year).
I assure you this is NOT the voice of the intelligent students in our schools. We are up to our necks in the middle of what our teachers are dealing with every day: combined classes, crowded classes, no resources, out-of date software- our teachers are miracle workers considering what they have to work with.
I challenge all of the intelligent students out there to get involved, support your teachers and become active in forcing this government to support our learning. Why should the teachers be doing this alone? We have a voice, a powerful voice. We are the future of this province and we have had enough. Our teachers have taught us to be critical thinkers- look at the FACTS (yes- objective unbiased facts) and get involved! Go to a rally, write an MLA, join a picket line. This is our fight!

pmcleod said...

Thank you, mevans. Your student voice and support are so appreciated. Thank you also, Bill Tieleman, for sharing your perspective and experience. After 29 years of teaching, this is the most unbelievable and uncomfortable situation I have ever found myself in. I am incredulous at the mean spirited and almost gleeful way the government is trying to push us off a cliff. I would NEVER have imagined such disdain for dedicated teachers like myself. It is changing me and may be difficult to truly recover from, regardless of the outcome of this dispute. I will hold the line for my students because there is just no other option that I can see.

Anonymous said...

I am really disgusted by Fassbender's attempt to twist public perception into thinking he and Clark's Liberals are the ones suddenly stepping in to solve the dispute between two quarreling parties - the BCTF and BCPSEA. Clark fired BCPSEA in the summer of 2013 as she did not like the fact progress was being made at the bargaining table. In BCPSEA's place Clark's Liberals became the puppet masters to Mark Cameron and his "new" bargaining team. Fassbender and the Liberals are not stepping in to save the day. They are the one's defying the court order on Class size and Composition that is preventing the settlement of this labour dispute.

Anonymous said...

You should really examine why the BCTF functions as a quasi political party championing social justice issues rather than protecting its members first and foremost which is why I pay dues. Other teacher unions across Canada do not ask so much of their membership yet have negotiated better contracts. This story goes way back and the animosity has always been there.

Eric said...

Bill, you've nailed it yet again. We teachers appreciate the sound advice and support in advocating for what is fair and for a better funded public education system. Parents have been very supportive of our cause and position because they know that we do care about our students and BC Ed. We also deserve a fair settlement to help us to support our families. A better funded education system benefits everyone in the long run. Planning and providing for the future is the measure of an intelligent society. Aren't our kids and we as taxpayers worth it?

Eric said...

Bill, you've nailed it yet again. We teachers appreciate the sound advice and support in advocating for what is fair and for a better funded public education system. Parents have been very supportive of our cause and position because they know that we do care about our students and BC Ed. We also deserve a fair settlement to help us to support our families. A better funded education system benefits everyone in the long run. Planning and providing for the future is the measure of an intelligent society. Aren't our kids and we as taxpayers worth it?

Anonymous said...

Bill, thank you so much for your wise words. We know
How difficult it is for teachers,how much they stand
To lose in wages as this charade continues,. Please
Hold the line teachers, you are the on the ground troops
Here and there has never been a bigger war on
Education than the one declared by CC and crew.

We are behind you 100%,how about the federation
Of labour or other unions helping the teachers out with
Both financial and emotional support. In our family
With two of our kids in teaching, we are determined to help in any way we can to see this through!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bill. Your thoughts on Peter Fassbender's sugggested "cooling off" period matches that of many teachers and parents,and members of the public. Where was the Minister's plan when there was the entire holidays to get an agreement? Why did government leave it until now to agree to negotiate?
This is a crisis staged by the government to make teachers look bad when they say no to a suggestion that gives the Liberals everything they want, without our children getting anything in return on the class size and composition issue. The Supreme Court ruled the Liberals' legislation was unconstitutional and illegal. That ruling will not be affected by the government court appeal. The law must be respected and obeyed by EVERYONE, including Christy and her Liberal ministers.
They have taken away money that should have been supporting kids. I hope people support teachers in their attempt to get it back, as the Supreme Court ruled should happen.

Anonymous said...

You are exactly right on, Bill, and it is my understanding, speaking to insiders, that the BCTF executive agrees with you. It's like the old adage: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." This outrageous government can't be trusted. Sadly, the NDP education critic was quoted in The Vancouver Sun giving teachers exactly the same advice about going back to work while mediation proceeds. What a pathetic political opposition party as well!

Anonymous said...

The BCTF is a terrorist organization! They use tactics to make parents feel they have no choice but to bow to their ridiculios demands. The government is ensuring education for years to come!

DPL said...

The piece by Anon 22:36 got it all wrong. It's not the government that wants a great place to learn, it's the teachers.The gov.,as others have mentioned broke the law more than once by cutting sections out of the contracts and the court ruled against the province. To step away from the table now would play into Clark and Co.

G. Barry Stewart said...

Thank you, Bill.

After 38 years of BC public school teaching, I feared that September would not start off with a bang — so I pulled the pin a year earlier than I had planned. I was fortunate to have an out and I took it.

However, I continue to lend my voice to the cause and will spend my time on picket lines until this thing is done.

Nestaken Squire said...

Once again, please allow this reader and now a typist to thank you for your thoughts as the wisest of the three wise men that lead to the death of that baby called HST. I certainly agree with most of the comments by your intelligent commenters. However there that one bad apple referring to BCTF as a terrorist group. Another offered a rebuttal but I will add that Mrs. Clark and her puppets clowns have terriotisted the honest people in our wonderful place on this planet. HST and now mine disaster are just two examples. I wish there were honest Liberals that would see the light of day and remove that Queen Bee from the hive. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Bill Tieleman,

Please write a follow up about the failure of the NDP critic for Education to support the union throughout the negotiation process.

The party has truly fallen from its roots as Rob Fleming has encouraged teachers to abandon collective bargaining rights and get back to work without a fair deal.

This sadly demonstrates the extent of the hollowing out of a party that used to stand for people, jobs, and dignity.

The public must be more vigilant than ever and op ed's like yours are even more vital as we cannot even rely on political opposition major media or m to interrogate the issues at hand.

Here is the link from the article cited.
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Teachers+province+continue+mediated+talks+Friday/10158267/story.html

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for the interest and kind words here on my thoughts on the BCTF strike picket line issue.

Thanks also for references to remarks by BC NDP Education Critic Rob Fleming - I have now had a chance to find the full statement on the BC NDP Caucus website and for clarity, here is the full statement:

“The only way to reach a fair settlement and ensure kids are in classrooms on Sept. 2 is to get both sides back to the table as quickly as possible. The willingness of both sides to start mediation is a positive sign.

“However, the B.C. Liberals must not squander this momentum as they have so many times before in this dispute, by putting up roadblocks, arbitrary deadlines and impossible pre-conditions.

“The B.C. Liberal government must absolutely and sincerely drive towards a resolution to get kids back in classrooms on Sept. 2, and that means removing any obstacles so mediator Vince Ready can have the tools to do his job and mediate a resolution.

“If mediation can successfully begin and show signs of steady progress, both sides should voluntarily suspend their job action so schools can be open while bargaining continues. This is the signal British Columbians have been waiting for all summer.”

While I share Rob Fleming's concern about getting students back to school and the BC Liberals' provocations to continue, rather than end the strike, I must respectfully disagree with him on returning to work without a tentative agreement.

To be fair, only the BCTF negotiating team can decide if enough "progress" has been made to go back to work but if the BCTF were my client I would strongly advise them against suspending the strike until a deal is reached.

My reasons were outlined in the article above.

Bill Tieleman said...

I should have included the website like to the BC NDP Caucus website where MLA Rob Fleming's statement can be found. It can be found at this BC NDP Caucus link.

Anonymous said...

Where the hell was the picket line during the summer? Nowhere to be found, since the teachers went on vacation. The teachers lost all their momentum before July and now it has blown up in their faces. I guess all of you weren't too serious to begin with. Good luck now because you're going to need it.

Nestaken Squire said...

I just read another negative comment as posted by an Anon at 30/8/2014/10:26. I can only comment that I think it was Mrs. lark and her boat load of clowns that were MIA. My Dock and I discussed this situation and I told him straight goods that the Lie berals were just preparing a strategy for a future show down with that profession. Private schools and medicine is the object to their agenda.

Anonymous said...

Let's use our $40/per day to support the teachers--I want to donate it to the BCTF strike fund.

Anonymous said...

"Let's use our $40/per day to support the teachers--I want to donate it to the BCTF strike fund"

Sure. Unions screech about strikebreakers, so if the BCTF wants to continue to strike, let 'em. They decided themselves to strike, and they themselves have let this go on for far too long.

They should dump Iker and his negotiating team. They obviously don't have any sense of fiscal reality out there.

Anonymous said...

"Where the hell was the picket line during the summer? Nowhere to be found, since the teachers went on vacation. The teachers lost all their momentum before July and now it has blown up in their faces. I guess all of you weren't too serious to begin with. Good luck now because you're going to need it."

Agree there. The BCTF should have been on the picket line through July and August but weren't.

It's also interesting that the teachers are out there either taking on jobs (which should be for those who are unemployed) while on strike (companies hiring temporary workers are despised by unions, but it seems to be okay for striking labour union members to take jobs from those who need them).

"Oh, I'm out of strike pay so I'll just work the gas station down the street until we settle". Get real.

Other unions financially supporting the BCTF strike? Interesting. Union strike members try prevent a company from receiving supplies it needs to survive during a labour dispute.

If you strike go ahead, but bear the burden. It was your vote to strike no one else's.

and $5000 per teacher signing bonus for something the teachers collectively would sign anyway? Get real.

Tell the BCTF to smarten up and lose the excessive demands. Negotiate class sizes, but lose the $3000 a year massages, fertility drugs (Viagara for men teachers), and the $5000 signing bonus.

Nestaken Squire said...

Happy Labour Day to all readers of your columns. Special shout out to those Anonymous that have your smart thoughts read to them and then their stupid thoughts are typed by that personal reader. I will not comment on the subject of education. Of course, it is in our minds, thoughts and discussions. I will attend the Victoria Labour Day to offer my personal "Thank Yous" to all members of that movement. Trust that movement would move forward.
Just heard Mr. Tieleman will be on CFAX next. A must listen.
Thank You.

Matt Mattson said...

THANK YOU
BILL! We really appreciate your thoughts on this issue and I wholeheartedly agree! I am with the Teachers, and also believe that we must not back down. Listen to Tom Petty for inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlTJrNJ5lA

Matt Mattson said...

THANK YOU
BILL! We really appreciate your thoughts on this issue and I wholeheartedly agree! I am with the Teachers, and also believe that we must not back down. Listen to Tom Petty for inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlTJrNJ5lA

Anonymous said...

Only a food would get inspiration for ending a union started strike by listening to U.S. country music.

A better idea is just to let the teachers actually vote on if they want to continue the strike or not. It is in their hands.