Opinion Column


B.C. teachers gave up the advantage by going the predictable route

By Brent Stafford, The Duel

BCTF president Jim Iker. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

BCTF president Jim Iker. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)


Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on civil disobedience was Laila with 67%.

This week’s topic:

Did the strike vote by B.C. teachers help or hurt their cause?

As I watched results come in last week for the strike vote by B.C. teachers I felt sad. There was zero suspense — teachers handed their representative, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, an overwhelming approval to strike.

I feel a deep sense of gloom over this result — not only for the students and parents who will be adversely affected by escalating job action, but also for the 41,000 teachers in B.C. who I believe have been seriously harmed by the union charged to represent their interests. BCTF president Jim Iker and the union’s bargaining committee have made an ill-fated strategic and tactical mistake.

By holding a surprise strike vote in the middle of negotiations with the province and before tabling a salary position, they have given up the moral high ground, which they had won when the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the provincial government had negotiated in bad faith. You would expect the federation to have more savvy in their management of public perception.

Read Laila Yuile's column

Teachers had the government over a barrel. Going into talks they had no less than a ruling admonishing the government over trying to provoke the teachers into a strike. There was no room for the government to maneuver. In the public, those who lean against the government were gleeful and for those who support the government there was dread. All the BCTF had to do this round of talks was stick to the message that the province is unreasonable. All the BCTF had to do was stay at the table and seek compromise over class size and composition — then argue for a fair and justifiable salary increase. When they met resistance, all they had to do was remind the public of the court ruling and the government’s bad record.

It’s bewildering the BCTF leadership would give up this strong position. It could prove ruinous for their negotiations with the government as from now on the conversation will be about job action, rotating strikes and sideshows such as the BCTF strike plan memo leaked last week. During the last round the government was caught trying to provoke teachers into a strike, so what do the teachers do this round? They strike. It’s the same old BCTF and Iker has made a mistake that should get him fired.

Brent Stafford is a veteran television news-documentary producer and marketing specialist. You can watch his show at ShakyPolitics.com.





Who wins this week's duel on the B.C. teachers' strike vote?

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