Teachers are public servants. As public servants their wages are part of what contributes to the costs of running this province. Those costs need to be brought into line in order to deal with the deficit. That means the province wanted a pay freeze and perks like having banked sick days paid out on retirement stopped.
While several unions have seen the writing on the wall and accepted the changes, others held out. The provincial legislature brought forth Bill 115 which would give the government the authority to impose a contract where a collective agreement could not be reached with the respective unions. This happened in September and by January, the Ministry of Education imposed a contract on the holdout unions.
The unions knew this was coming, they reacted by withdrawing extracurricular activities for the kids. So, the kids were to once again pay the price for teachers being unhappy with their employer. This isn’t new, I’m in my 50s and it was happening when I was in school. They also staged a one day protest in December when they were still without a contract, that was legitimate and legal.
They are claiming that it isn’t about the money, it’s about Bill 115. They claim that Bill 115 is unconstitutional and as such should be struck down and the contracts made invalid. They may be right. That would be a decision that would need to come from the courts where civilized people normally take grievances like this.
The union’s planned walkout tomorrow when a contract is in place is illegal. Some are arguing that since it is not a collective agreement then there is not a contract. Well until the courts support the union’s argument that the bill is unconstitutional, it is the law and the contract has been legally put into place.
Note, I’m referring to the teacher’s unions here. I am not making blanket statements about the teachers of this province. Yes, they do belong to those unions and theoretically are the driving force behind the decisions made to boycott extracurricular activities and to stage the walkouts. The fact is that only a portion of the teachers are involved in these decisions and often they are the teachers most pro-union, those who are not in agreement being all too often shouted down.
There are teachers who just want to teach their kids, to work with them on those extra activities that can make such a difference in their student’s lives. Yes, they are not particularly happy about what the government is doing, they also aren’t very happy with what the union is doing. They don’t want it taken out on the kids. I applaud those teachers and would surely love to hear them speak up. The problem is that those who have indicated they are not in agreement and just want to get on with working with their students are being given a very clear message, toe the line or face consequences.
The teachers are parents and taxpayers. They know that in the last several years they have enjoyed increases in their income while the parents of many of their students have lost good paying jobs and were unable to replace them. The lack of being able to find equivalent income also means the government receives less tax revenue while needs continue to grow. Something has to give.
The teachers are not alone among public servants facing pay freezes. Their unions need to deal with the issue like adults and take the government to court to get a ruling instead of trying to bully the government and the people of this province (which includes the teachers they are supposed to represent) into giving in to their demands from the street. In other words, grow up and set an example to the children you teach.