I want to laud the teachers of British Columbia and particularly the teachers of Okanagan Skaha for the courage and fortitude they have shown in the dispute with the boards of education bargaining agent the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association.
In the face of insurmountable odds they have remained respectful, diligent, and professional in their service to students and parents.
They have also carried the burden of defending workers’ rights to free collective bargaining, a right the provincial Liberal government caused the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold for the first time in Canada’s history.
The most significant issue raised in this dispute is the right of workers to organize, to bargain their working conditions, and to seek contractual improvements to their collective agreements where the workers have such agreements.
To date the teachers’ job action has caused no disruption of learning for children or for parent opportunities to monitor and assist student learning outcomes.
We are living in a world where the neo-conservative leaders in our governments seek to denigrate all workers by using political jargon and spin to convince the public that working people are the cause of the economic woes of the world.
Big business, multi-national corporations, large banks, and those who earn their living off the labour of the working poor and the working middle class are given every opportunity to continue to behave in ways that are morally and ethically corrupt.
The current Liberal government has strategically assisted BCPSEA to resist any attempts to bargain a new agreement because the government has promised to make the playing field uneven, favouring the employers’ association.
First teachers were made an essential service, usually defined as a service and now are threatened with legislation to force teachers to be in the classroom.
We have had the federal Conservatives legislate postal workers in the public sector and airline workers in the private sector, thereby abusing the rights of working people to be organized and to freely negotiate their working conditions.
Now we have our provincial government doing the same with teachers.
Profits increase even in these difficult economic times but salaries for workers stagnate to a level where the middle class is disappearing.
The wealth of our nation is in the hands of fewer and fewer people and working people are in danger of becoming indentured labourers, earning wages that do not meet the cost of living in this province or this country.
If the teachers are legislated back to work, yet another blow to working people everywhere will result in continued expectations that they should not fairly share in the wealth of this country.
In Canada, one would expect that government leaders would respect the rights of citizens, would protect their working class with fair employment standards and would respect the right for organized workers to negotiate working conditions and wages with their employers without interference and biased intervention from governments.
South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council