Victoria stacks the deck against teachers 0
There is no gambling like politics.
- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1868, 1874-1880
No one in their right mind would play high stakes poker against a dealer who not only uses marked cards, but also deals from the bottom of that deck and has an ace up his sleeve.
But that's the untenable position B.C. teachers now find themselves in, trying to negotiate a new contract with a provincial government that announced last week it would impose its own terms through legislation.
It's an all-in, no-win situation for teachers.
B.C. Liberal Education Minister George Abbott claims negotiations have failed, so the government has no choice.
Some observers nod their heads sagely and agree. The teachers aren't willing to bargain, they say, it's so predictable.
Don't be fooled. It's predictable all right - that when the government holds all the cards, the teachers lose the game every time.
And it's exactly what Clark and Abbott wanted - the opportunity to bolster their flagging public support by getting tough on teachers.
The B.C. Liberals are down to 24 per cent in a new Forum Research poll. The B.C. Conservatives are nipping at their heels at 22 per cent, while the New Democrats are cruising at 42 per cent. With two byelections imminent, things are desperate.
The B.C Teacher's Federation technically negotiates with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association - which is the province's bargaining agent. But talks have come to an impasse because the government doesn't want teachers to get a raise - any raise - unless it comes from cutting school budgets elsewhere.
That means BCPSEA doesn't have to negotiate - can't bargain - because the government has restricted its mandate.
The whole concept of collective bargaining is that pressure is put on both sides to compromise and move to a mutually acceptable agreement that gives each some of their goals.
To apply pressure, unions can partially or fully withdraw their labour, while employers can leave them out on a picket line rather than drawing regular pay - or even lock them out.
An Environics poll commissioned by the B.C. Federation of Labour shows in this situation the public sides with teachers, at 52 per cent, rather than the government, at 39 per cent.
How governments handle these disputes can make or break their political future.
But by imposing a contract without serious bargaining, never even considering putting money on the table and without allowing teachers to take real job action, this government shows the poker game was fixed from the start.
Read more Tieleman at www.TheTyee.ca and http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org