Opinion Column

The government that kicked the hornet’s nest 0

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Education Minister Peter Fassbender offered a carrot to teachers on Thursday before the stick was introduced on Friday, says Bill Tieleman. (FILE PHOTO)

Education Minister Peter Fassbender offered a carrot to teachers on Thursday before the stick was introduced on Friday, says Bill Tieleman. (FILE PHOTO)

Don't poke a hornet’s nest and expect butterflies to come out. — WhenAllElseFails

The BC Liberals have done exactly the wrong thing in trying to reach a deal with the BC Teachers’ Federation.

On Friday, the BC Public School Employers’ Association announced it would cut teachers’ pay by 5% unless the two sides reach a deal by June 30. That percentage could increase if teachers escalate job action.

The BCPSEA’s goal is to scare the BCTF into accepting contract proposals they’ve rejected to date.

Instead, the government has poked the proverbial hornet’s nest and no butterflies flew out — just angry teachers on Twitter.

Veteran government negotiator Peter Cameron has enraged teachers and hardened the BCTF’s resolve to fight. Brilliant strategy — just like Boston Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic threatening Montreal Canadiens players as they shook hands after his team lost game seven.

It also completely obliterated any goodwill from Thursday’s employer offer of a $1,200 signing bonus if a contract was reached by June 30, and to give up on its demand for a 10-year deal.

So now the teachers will ask the BC Labour Relations Board to stop the employer from docking teachers’ pay.

The LRB decision can’t be predicted with 100% certainty, but take a look at B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin’s January decision that trashed the BC Liberals for deliberately trying to provoke a strike in 2011 — that offers a telling clue.

“Another aspect of these pressure tactics was to have BCPSEA apply for an order of the Labour Relations Board to vary previous essential services orders so that districts could reduce teachers’ pay. This application was brought, but was unsuccessful,” Griffin wrote.

More government genius — use tactics that failed before.

Of course, Cameron and Education Minister Peter Fassbender say carrot and stick is how you bargain.

But they are provoking a strike again and the reason is simple — if teachers walk out, the government believes it can legislatively impose a contract that it couldn’t negotiate fairly.

With zero success to date and multiple court decisions in the BCTF’s favour, it’s more than likely the BC Liberals will be stung again.

Bill Tieleman is a consultant and former NDP strategist who has also been an LRB employee representative. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.ca Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman




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