Members of the B.C. Teachers Federation working in the Sooke School District used part of their one-day strike Monday to march down Veteran’s Memorial Parkway in a rally of solidarity.
The teachers received an outpouring of local support for their move. But the longstanding dispute between the BCTF and the B.C. Liberal government is also one of the most polarizing in recent memory.
On the one hand are people familiar with the day-to-day challenges teachers face, i.e. parents. They know those challenges were exacerbated when the province cut in-class resources and maxed out class sizes. They especially feel for the educators if they happen to have special needs children who are falling through the cracks with the system operating as it is.
On the other hand are people who believe teachers have it made: they already make good money and receive the equivalent of three months’ paid holidays a year. They’re in the upper realm when placed beside other workers in B.C. society.
Many rank-and-file teachers admit money is not the key issue, it’s working conditions. They seem hampered by the fact their union executive continues to argue for a return to smaller classes and more teaching assistants, as well as laying out a demand for significant raises.
The province insists there’s not enough money available to do both. Fair enough, but why take the aggressive step of calling for inordinate cash penalties against striking teachers before ruling out all potential compromises and ahead of either side stepping away from the bargaining table?
To us it’s painfully obvious the two sides need the services of an independent mediator to help settle this ugly, ongoing dispute. While it’s anyone’s guess as to whether each side would agree to live with that person’s recommendations, it’s certainly worth a try.
Regardless of which side one happens to be on, no one wants to see this whole sorry affair drag on year after year and put the education of our children at risk.
Don Descoteau is acting editor for the Goldstream Gazette.