What I said to the Education Minister (I hope he writes back)

It’s not often a teacher gets an email from the education minister himself. A lot of thoughts went through my mind: First, how did he get my email address? It was kind of creepy/spammy that he was able to find the email address of every teacher in the province so quickly.

Second, what did he hope to gain by writing to me? It seemed weird that he’d write to me in the middle of negotiations with my union. Is this normal? Not in my experience.

Mr. Fassbender:
 
I assume that because you have sent me a personal email, you will accept a personal reply. Please respond to this email with your opinions about the issues I raise.
 
I too am willing to see long term labour peace, but the government’s history of legislated contracts, clamoring for essential service legislation, and bad faith bargaining through BCPSEA has wounded this process. The “run silent, run deep” missive was hurtful and harmful, and I will not soon forget it. Nor will I forget how when Christy Clark was education minister, the Liberal government stripped class size and composition language out of the contract. Nor will I forget the unconstitutional legislation from PEFCA (repeated in Bill 22), which  is deeply divisive, and unnecessarily egregious. I won’t forget how in the last set of contract negotiations, the only thing that was brought to the table by the employer was the suggestion of cuts – including removing seniority.
 
You are a government. You should be dedicated to human dignity, and should therefore have it in your mandate to respect labour rights outlined by the International LabourOrganization (to which Canada is a signatory). You should be proudly promoting education spending as the investment that it is. You should be championing real economics, not corporate-lobbied economics. Furthermore, your government should defend unionism. It is ONLY because of unions that we have such a vibrant middle class in our society. This is good for a society. Surely you are aware that the middle class is eroding. Is this not a concern for government?
 
Actions speak louder than words. Start by rescinding Bill 22 and making real amends for PEFCA, and I will believe you’re sincerely interested in labour peace. Show some willingness to see teachers’ compensation be stable relative to the cost of living, and relative to the rest of Canada, rather than decreasing relatively, as it has been over the course of the last 20 years. Stop basing your compensation imperative on “market forces” and start talking about a decent wage for teachers – one that maintains their standard of living. I never expected to be rich when I got into teaching (not in a materialistic sense), but I did expect that I would maintain the same standard of living throughout my career.
 
Stop allowing the Fraser Institute to publish standardized test results. The Institute is misleading the public with these results. When consulting education research, consider the whole body of research instead of cherry-picking the research that supports your agenda of “controlling public sector spending”.
 
Stop ignoring the facts: that our system is the lowest funded in Canada, that the average private sector pay increase has been 4% while public sector has been 2%. Please stop all of the rhetoric about “tax burden” and “controlling public sector spending” when you talk about the public service sector. It’s insulting. It makes me feel as though your government doesn’t value what I do. Fund education adequately to meet class size and composition needs.
 
I await your reply.
 

Labour rights for everyone – not just teachers.

When the BC Teacher’s Federation took the provincial government to court over legislated contracts, the court clarified the labour rights guaranteed by the constitution. Here are some of them, cited verbatim from the 2011 decision of the BC Supreme Court that struck down Bill 28.

Though at times inconvenient to the employer, these are rights for EVERY Canadian. They are enshrined in the Canadian Charter. To take them away is to put limits on workers’ dignity. It’s also ILLEGAL.

<345> Legislated collective agreements can impair dialogue and the collective bargaining process, as noted by the BC Labour Relations Board in Health Employers’ Ass’n of British Columbia and H.E.U., BCLRB Decision No. B395/ 2004, 109 C.L.R.B.R. (2d) 1 at para. 84…
<371> The whole point of the Charter protection of collective bargaining is to allow employees the freedom to associate so as to collectively influence their working conditions, through strength of numbers which equalizes an employee‟s bargaining power with the employer.
<372> Collective bargaining is the mechanism through which labour and management seek to accommodate their differences, frequently without strife, sometimes through it, and occasionally without success. As imperfect an instrument as it may be, there is no viable substitute in a free society.
<373> Giving workers a voice in the process of determining their working conditions … is regarded as a means of increasing stability in the workplace.
<379> …the Court recognized the fundamental importance of a person’s work, as directly impacting one’s livelihood and human dignity…