In the 1990s the NDP created a bargaining framework for the BCTF that was much more friendly to government. They got rid of local bargaining in order to prevent “whip-sawing”, which was the union using good deals in some districts as leverage for deals in other districts. Instead, there would now be province-wide bargaining, giving the government much more control.
The teachers didn’t like this, but as the 90s closed, local deals got finished, and provincial bargaining came into effect.
By 2001, full province-wide bargaining was in force for the new Liberal government with the Education Minister being none other than Christy Clark. The government at that time curtailed bargaining and created legislation which stripped the provisions of the existing contract. Contract stripping is illegal. It has been found over and over again to be an infringement against labour law and against collective bargaining rights protected by the Charter.
This was the beginning of the acrimony between the government and teachers. Given that the Christy Clark government has never implemented the court-ordered restitution for the 2002 contract stripping (Bill 28), and given that they have repeated word-for-word the same impugned contract stripping legislation as recently as 2012 (in Bill 22), the government has continued to ensure that this acrimony can never go away.
Furthermore, the government keeps jabbing at teachers with punitive little stunts – first trying to charge the union for benefits during the work-to-rule campaign, then trying to dock teachers’ pay, all the while refusing to negotiate on class size and composition.
I keep hearing pundits talk about the long war between the government and the BCTF. This is false equivalence. The BCTF has never done anything that other unions don’t do, but the government has certainly done things that no employer should ever do – including violating Charter rights.
And this is no small thing! Teachers were beside themselves with anger and resentment when the government did this in 2002 and again in 2012. They knew it was illegal, and they were terribly offended. They continue to be offended. To be told that they don’t have a right that others have feels like so much betrayal.