Letters: Teachers’ association speaks out

Working conditions and salaries of teachers discussed

Elementary teachers in British Columbia have the least amount of preparation time nation wide. Teachers in B.C. are among the lowest paid in the country. In Sooke District, teachers have one of the lowest district funding levels for our professional development. And as teachers, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Over several decades, and through many rounds of collective bargaining, teachers everywhere in B.C. have routinely put aside personal gain, and improvements in benefits and working conditions, in favour of learning conditions.

In the case of Sooke teachers, we sacrificed improvements in Pro-D funding at the bargaining table in 1998, in favour of reduced class sizes for our primary students, and to secure appropriate ratios of our specialist support teachers.

In 2002, the government passed legislation that summarily eradicated articles in our collective agreement that governed class size and composition, and introduced bills that created larger class sizes, and removed all guaranteed ratios of specialist teachers, such as counselors, learning assistance, and integration support teachers, for students with special needs.

In 2003, the International Labour Organization concluded that the B.C. government legislation had violated international conventions, to which Canada is a signatory. In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the legislation had violated teachers’ Charter rights.

In 2006, we heard a convicted, drunk-driving premier declare his unconvincing respect for the rule of law, by saying there is “no excuse to break the law and show such flagrant contempt for the courts of British Columbia.”

Last week, when Premier Clark introduced Bill 22, which will create even more over-sized classes, and remove any hope for more specialist support teachers, as well as obliterating protections for working conditions, all we heard was, the courts of British Columbia be damned, we’ll get your union, and your little dog, too.

We’re definitely not in Kansas any more.

Patrick Henry

President

Sooke Teachers Association