The first volley has been shot over the bow of the provincial government this week in what had been little more than a simmering cold war for the last six months.
The three-day teachers’ strike has been the talk of the town, though there seems to be little to no talking going on between the two sides.
With legislation forcing the teachers to work all but one day a week, it seems the government now has the upper hand in the skirmish. Both sides have been waging intense public relations campaigns for the hearts and minds of British Columbians. But as is said about any war, the first casualty is the truth.
The rhetoric making the rounds has done little to accurately portray the reality of the situation facing our schools.
The biggest gripe against teachers is the claim they’re demanding a massive wage hike and are unwilling to budge an inch.
However, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert told the News that the well-publicized demand for a 15-per-cent raise is a “red herring.” The number is up for negotiation, though Lambert was adamant that whatever the “real” number other than 15 turns out to be is something that will only be hammered out at the table. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education sent out a “fact sheet” on Sunday to bust some of the “myths” being spread about the state of B.C.’s school system.
One curious statement suggests increasing teachers’ wages will cost taxpayers $2 billion.
The math must get a little complicated as the entire budget for B.C. schools is less than $4 billion. Even if teachers’ salaries make up half the budget, a 15-per-cent wage hike won’t directly add up to $2 billion.
Right now, the true cost of this labour dispute are being borne by parents and kids who should be in school. Money being spent on alternative child care is cash that’s not being spent on other sectors of the economy.
How the lost time in class will affect students might never be known. What we do know is that, in this fight, the province has the bigger guns and will eventually allow the government to give teachers “a deal they can’t refuse.”