||Volume 18, Number 4, January/February 2006 |
I’ve just finished devouring the latest edition of Teacher about the strike. I want to congratulate you and all those who contributed for the colourful and comprehensive coverage. I was out of the country from mid-September to early November so I missed all of the action. The photos, quotes from the front line, and informative articles added greatly to my admiration for the stand teachers took. I particularly liked the response of a teacher to a reporter’s question about the action of the BCTF—"I am the BCTF." It was also good to hear from students and student teachers.
My only disappointment is that I was not around to walk the line. It’s the first provincial action I’ve missed since participating in the 1971 pension strike.
Gains not worth effort
This letter is in response to the Nov./Dec. 2005 Teacher newsmagazine. I attended the rally in Victoria. I listened, I sang, I chanted, I believed. I believed it when I heard, "As long as it takes this time." I believed Jinny Sims and I believed Jim Sinclair of the BCFed. Now, I don’t understand how Ms. Sims, et al, can reconcile the rhetoric at the rally, during interviews, and in print and the cave-in only days later.
I agree with Glenn Bullard that, "...many teachers are still confused about the way the strike ended, and uncertain about what they achieved for their efforts." Well, not uncertain. We’re certain we got next to nothing. The Ready recommendations are a cynical exercise in how the government can spend some of the money they saved while we were on strike. Any gains we got came on the backs and from the pockets of working teachers. This is not what we walked the line for.
Nancy Knickerbocker gushes over the "united and fearless Executive Committee" during the strike. These committee members attended local meetings before the vote, expressly to convince our members to vote Yes. Jinny Sims even dropped her conditional support of the Ready recommendations and supported them unconditionally. What brought about such a drastic and thorough about-face?
Stand restored pride
For the first time in my teaching career, which began back in 1969, I have read the Nov./Dec. 2005, Teacher, from cover to cover. Each article was a collective and supportive pat on the back, for a job well done.
We may not have achieved the goals we set out before us on October 7, but I realize now, that on a personal level, I have achieved far more. I have a renewed sense of pride in myself, and my profession, for standing up for what I believe is morally correct. We demonstrated, what we often try to teach, the essence of democracy. I have a deepened feeling of camaraderie and collegiality within my staff, as I was finally able to talk to other staff members for an extended length of time, out there on the picket lines.
And finally I know, without any question of doubt, that I am appreciated by our students, parents, and community. The honks, waves, food, drinks, and time spent joining us on our picket line attests to that.
I am going to retire in June, after 35 years of teaching, on a real high. The job I have been doing all these years is valued.
Time to move on to round two
I have reached factor 88 and am at max on a scale that is above the provincial average. I contributed to long-term SIP for 33 years and fortunately never had to use it. I have no problem with the Executive Committee decision for distribution of the SIP "rebate." I do not expect to be rebated for payments I have not made. When we negotiated parenting leave, many of us felt it should be retroactive but when the employer did not agree, it did not prevent us from accepting it in contract.
Perhaps teachers entering the profession will never have to pay SIP dues again without receiving rebates or tax laws will be changed so we don’t have to play stupid games and can negotiate SIP as a paid benefit. I will be retiring June 30, 2006, foregoing many anticipated future benefits. Ready’s recommendations are inequitable as are most negotiated benefits including percentage salary increases, early retirement incentive plans, and maternity top-up to Employment Insurance.
I happen to belong to the minority who believe that we should not have accepted Ready’s recommendations. The vast majority voted to accept and time may prove them right. Let us move on to round two.
Bill Gorkoff, president
Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union
Benefits for the future
Our Executive Committee engaged in a thoughtful debate to decide on a fair distribution of the $40 million in SIP funds. There is no solution that everyone will consider fair and equitable to all.
As a collective, we made significant gains for most of our members with our job action. I am happy with that and do not think it constructive to compare how much or how little I personally gained in comparison with other BCTF members around the province. I participated in job action to make gains, now and into the future, for the collective good of the teaching profession and our students.
At the 2003 BCFed convention, Ken Georgetti said, "...we walk on bridges that others have built for us, that is why we must in turn, build new bridges for those who are coming behind us."
During my teaching career, I have benefited greatly from the stand taken by teachers who preceded me, and I know that the stand we collectively took in October will benefit future generations of teachers. I feel proud to take my turn to "build new bridges" for younger teachers.
In its December 2004 decision in favour of the Sooke Teachers’ Association, the Human Rights Tribunal succinctly described the balance between individual and collective rights for trade union members when it stated:
"Membership in a trade union involves, at its core, a number of trade-offs. In return for gaining the financial and other advantages of collective bargaining, members agree to be bound by the collective decision-making of the union. Instead of individual workers bargaining directly with their employer about the terms and conditions of their employment, their union is given the right, and the employer the obligation, to bargain with one another. The member also gives up the right, with some exceptions, notably a complaint under the Human Rights Code, to take individual action against their employer about workplace issues, and instead gains the right to use the grievance procedure established under the collective agreement. The member is, in turn, given the right to participate in the democratic decision-making of the union about the goals and objectives and workplace strategies which it will adopt."
Our democratically elected leaders on the BCTF Executive Committee put their minds to a fair method for distribution of the $40 million in SIP funds and made a decision that will have money in our members’ hands as soon as possible.
Let’s not get lost in minute calculations of individual benefit, but keep our focus on the broader picture. The benefits we gain from belonging to a collective far out weigh any minor "inequities" we may presently perceive.
Yvonne Wai, president
Central Coast Teachers’ Association
Vote could divide teachers
I was disappointed by the 77% vote October 22 and 23, in favour of returning to work. I voted to support the action plan put forth by the BCTF Executive Committee to walk out on Friday October 7. I was proud to take a stand for students in my class and proud of teachers in our province standing together. The three goals were clearly identified before we voted (fair and reasonable salary increase for all teachers, restoring stripped language on class size, support for students with special needs, and non-enrolling teachers, and restoring collective bargaining rights. Individual teachers also spoke up for the goals in media interviews from the picket line.
When Vince Ready made his recommendations, I studied them, discussed them with my colleagues, and attended our local meeting where Bill Fite, member of the BCTF negotiating team answered our questions.
I was shocked by the vote because the recommendations did not resolve any of the three issues that we stood up for. By voting to return to our work, we did not restore our collective bargaining rights, we did not restore vital language on class size or non-enrolling teachers, and we did not achieve a fair and reasonable salary increase for all teachers. The salary harmonization benefits some teachers, but not all. Most teachers in my district will receive 0% and 0%.
In closing, I have three questions: (1) If we were going to accept recommendations that don’t meet any of our three objectives, why did we go on an illegal protest and lose two weeks pay? (2) Did those districts and individuals who voted to accept the recommendations understand that some teachers would not receive a salary increase and that there were no firm commitments in the recommendations on class size? (3) Why vote to accept recommendations that don’t meet any of our three objectives?
In the end, this vote may more effectively divide teachers in our province than any action by the BC government ever could.
Peace River South
Nepal Library Foundation
My wife and I are teachers who took a deferred salary leave in 2000-01, which we used to travel. We spent two months in Nepal trekking through the Langtang and Annapurna regions witnessing the impoverished state of education and lack of access to reading material for children. Being there makes one want to do something to help.
In Kathmandu I made contact with the head librarian of Tribhuvan University and between us came to an agreement to facilitate the development of libraries in Nepal. A chance encounter with a like-minded Nepalese seismic engineer in Vancouver led to the formation of the Nepal Library Foundation.
Our groundwork came to fruition last march when the Nepal Library Foundation was granted charitable status enabling donors to claim tax exemption on any donation.
As you may know Nepal is in desperate straits, with an ongoing insurrection taking a terrible toll on the economy and everyday life in the countryside.
As teachers we feel that literacy and access to information is ultimately necessary for the development of the country and we hope that our efforts will in small part contribute to a better life for the people of this unique place.
For more information, visit our web site at www.nepallibrary.com.
Charles Dickens Heritage Project
The alumni and community members invite you to participate in the Charles Dickens School Heritage Community Project. We will be hosting regular meetings at the school to record stories and collect photos and memorabilia. The old school will be replaced in 2007 and we want to acknowledge the importance of Charles Dickens School in the history of our community.
A DVD of the history of the school will be created and if you have something to share or would like to participate in creating this project, please contact Shirley North at 604-432-6144.