Once again, a labour dispute between a public sector union and the province could have far-reaching effects.
The job action between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province includes rotating strikes which began this week and a stop-work order that takes effect 45 minutes before and after school hours and during lunch and recess breaks.
In Summerland, students were out of school on Monday while teachers and support staff picketed.
The story has played itself out too many times in the past. This year’s graduating students have experienced previous teacher job actions and strikes in 2002, 2005 and 2012.
And, as in the past, those most deeply affected by this job action are the students and their families.
In the private sector, if labour and management cannot reach an agreement and a strike results, the customers can find other providers for the same products or services.
In a public sector environment, there are no other feasible alternatives in place.
The vast majority of students in British Columbia are under the public school system. While private schools exist, switching schools at this point in the year is extremely difficult if not impossible.
The same holds true for other services provided by the government.
Health care, public safety, road and highway maintenance and more exist through government departments.
If these services are interrupted or slowed down, there are no other reasonable alternatives for the public.
In the short term, it is important that the province and the teachers reach a solution which satisfies all concerned.
In the longer term, a better model is needed so similar job actions are unnecessary in the future.