I am an educator who works in B.C.’s public post-secondary education system. Like thousands of B.C. teachers across our province, I am deeply frustrated by the actions of the B.C. Liberals in the current dispute between B.C. teachers and their employers.
My deepest frustration is that the B.C. Liberals keep saying that tough times justify tough legislation. They are right about one thing; their legislation to end the teachers’ dispute is indeed tough.
What is crystal clear is that this legislation will do nothing whatsoever to ‘improve education,’ nor is it really intended to. Rather, it lays the ground work for more contract-stripping of B.C. teacher collective agreements. Stripping those contracts will only guarantee that future labour relations in the K-12 system will become increasingly dysfunctional and acrimonious, outcomes that put our public school system on absolutely the wrong track.
The so-called tough times that the B.C. Liberals use to justify this legislation are really just the culmination of a decade of fiscal mismanagement, mismanagement that allowed provincial revenues to suffer so that unwarranted tax cuts could be pushed through. Ten years on, public services in our province are being squeezed even more to make up for B.C. Liberal mistakes.
Despite consistently exceeding our enrolment targets year after year, my employer (Okanagan College) is presently being forced to consider tuition increases, program reductions and staff layoffs in order to make up for the multi-million-dollar funding shortfalls imposed by the most recent provincial budget. The current disgraceful treatment of the teachers by the B.C. Liberals is just the most recent and public display of this government’s neo-liberal contempt for those who provide public services.
The only comfort I find in all of this is that voters increasingly share my frustration with the current government and its short sighted, relentlessly negative vision for the province. The voters, like me, have run out of patience with this government. When the provincial election is called, hopefully, we can organize to run them out of office.
In the meantime, the almost 300 members of the Okanagan College Faculty Association will stand side by side in solidarity with our colleagues in the BCTF as they struggle for fair treatment and to maintain their right to free collective bargaining. I would urge your readers to do likewise.
Dr. Tim Walters, president
Okanagan College Faculty Association