Hey Minister Fassbender! Read your email!

What follows is Mr. Fassbender’s email to BC teachers last June 2013, followed by my reply at the time. I admit I was a little angry when I wrote it, but really, I think I make some good points. And certainly, the Supreme Court seemed to agree with me. If anyone reads this post and knows Mr. Fassbender, could you please encourage him to read the email I sent him last June. He never got back to me, so I think he may have missed it.

I understand that some teachers got another letter from him just today. I didn’t.

On 2013-06-24, at 4:02 PM, Education Minister Peter Fassbender <EDUC.Minister@gov.bc.ca> wrote:

To British Columbia Teachers

I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself as B.C.’s new Minister of Education.

As a parent and grandparent of children who have thrived in public school, and as a former school trustee, I know we have a great education system filled with talented teachers dedicated to their students. B.C. students consistently score high on international assessments and that is, first and foremost, a clear reflection of the quality of teachers across the province.

While we have a great system, we all share a goal to make it better. I am committed to open communication with students, parents, trustees, and teachers to ensure we are all working together to help our children succeed.

As part of my mandate, I look forward to pursuing the vision and innovations outlined in the BC Education Plan, expanding access to trades training and the arts, and ensuring seamless transition into apprenticeships for those students who wish to go straight to work after graduation. In particular, I will keep you as informed as possible on another key priority – – pursuing the government’s framework for long-term labour peace with B.C. teachers.

On June 20, I asked BCPSEA and the BCTF to conclude matters currently being negotiated. Government wants to use the time scheduled this week to begin working out with the parties and the BCSTA the process or road map forward. We want to keep moving and that means we need to focus on building a joint roadmap before bargaining can resume under a new mandate that is consistent with our election commitment.

The framework the government released in January includes many ideas that have long been sought by the BCTF, like the full right to strike, more matters being negotiated at local bargaining tables, improvements to the bargaining process, and allowing the BCTF to negotiate directly with government on provincial matters.

At every step of the way, we will work with school trustees, teachers, parents and other partners who care about long-term stability in our schools. We want and need their help in crafting solutions for a long-term agreement. And as we develop solutions, we must remain alive to the challenges of a fragile global economy and the need to balance the budget. An affordable, long-term agreement can help us provide certainty and fairness not only for teachers today, but for future taxpayers as well.

I want you to feel informed about the process and the details of bargaining. It is important that all interested parties have an opportunity to share the same understanding as we work towards this important settlement. The Ministry of Education’s newsroom is where you can find relevant information and updates on the proposed framework for labour peace with teachers in one easy to find location. You can subscribe to receive Ministry of Education email updates, bookmark the newsroom, or follow @BCGovNews on Twitter for all updates.

I love a challenge and I am an optimist. I promise you I will be part of the solution and not an obstacle to getting things done. It is important to remember that despite past labour disputes, the various parties have worked together to build one of the best education systems in the world. I can only imagine what we can achieve together if we work from a position of long-term labour peace.


Peter Fassbender
Minister of Education


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 Labour Organization (to which Canada is  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.
Jim Watson
School District 42




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