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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005

Teachers are forced to live with political whims

Henry Armstrong, the former executive director of the B.C. School Trustees Association (1973 to 1990), responded to "Teachers, province brace for showdown," in The Vancouver Sun, August 24, 2005.

Thirty years of experiences in labour relations representing employers, employees, and goverment taught me to look for the all-important hidden agenda. What’s the hidden agenda in the current dispute between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government?

For many years, teachers negotiated with their employers, the school boards. They did not have the right to strike, but they had the right to free collective bargaining. When there was no agreement, the matter was submitted to binding arbitration.

Then in 1987, the Social Credit provincial government gave teachers the right to negotiate under the Labour Code and the right to strike. This was consistent with the rights of other workers.

When the Liberal government took office, it legislated teaching as an essential service. This not only removed the teachers’ right to strike, it also removed their right to free collective bargaining with rights to arbitration if negotiations broke down.

The hidden agenda in this dispute is one of basic human rights. Teachers are forced to accept the political whims of the government of the day, not their employers.

Is this justice or the settlement of an old partisan political agenda, with unsuspecting students, parents, teachers, and school trustees caught in the middle?

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