B.C. Elementary Students Offer Advice On How To End the Teachers’ Strike
While children across the country head back to school Tuesday, B.C. public school students are still stuck in the middle of an argument that's getting in the way of their right to education.
In mid-June, B.C.’s unionized teachers walked off the job after several weeks of rotating strikes, ending the school year two weeks early for about half a million children. Veteran mediator Vince Ready met with both sides last week, but walked away from talks on Saturday, saying the two sides are too far apart. There’s now no indication of how the conflict will be resolved and when kids will be back in classes.
Parents who have been talking to their kids about the strike may have discovered young students have some pretty good ideas of how to end the dispute. Here, some tips for Education Minister Peter Fassbender and B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker from B.C. elementary students.
“Take away their allowance.” Ben, 11
If Ben is arguing with his older sister about who should wash the dishes and who should dry (considered the better job), neither of them gets an allowance until the job is done. Coming to an agreement is not considered part of the job. While teachers are taking a serious financial hit during the strike (they’ve lost an average of $5,200 in unpaid wages so far and the union’s strike-pay fund has dried up), our government representatives are still on the payroll. Ben doesn’t think Fassbender should get paid until the mess is cleaned up.
“Don’t gossip.” Julia, 9
Spreading misinformation has been the name of the game. At a media conference Sunday, Fassbender accused the BCTF of trying to force the government to table back-to-work legislation. Iker was quick to deny the allegations. Kids learn in school that gossip is a form of bullying and should not be tolerated. Julia thinks our leaders should set a better example. After all, Clark created Pink Shirt Day.
“Put them in a Get Along Shirt.” Ellie, 10
If you’re not familiar with this humiliating form of discipline, it involves putting two bickering children together in an oversized T-shirt. It’s been hard to get Fassbender and Iker in a room together, let alone a T-shirt, but this could prove effective in expediting talks, especially if they can make room for Clark. Make it a pink shirt. Photo op!
“It would probably help if they dressed like super heroes.” Owen, 9
This reminds me of what my friends, a couple, do when they’re arguing. They quickly change into ridiculous matching red jumpsuits before carrying on with their conversation. It breaks the tension and helps them see the humour in the situation. Now, who gets to be Batman?
“Give them a treat when they make up.” Cedar, 8
Back in May, the provincial government offered teachers a $1,200 signing bonus if a new collective bargaining agreement could be reached before the end of the school year. Cedar, who’s a big fan of sticker charts, is on the right track; incentives are often offered in contract negotiations. Cedar is giving gold stars to everyone when a deal is reached.
“Follow the rules.” Jonah, 9
One of the most contentious points in the dispute is a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that says the government behaved unconstitutionally by stripping provisions around class size and composition from teachers’ collective agreements in 2002, removing their ability to bargain on those issues. The government has appealed the ruling and has suggested the issue be put aside until the case can be heard. As Jonah knows, if you don’t play by the rules, you won’t be voted captain of the team and the fans will boo you.
“They should talk to my mom.” Sophie, 6
Like many B.C. parents, Sophie’s mom is in a difficult position. She’s a working single parent. She can’t find quality childcare that she’s comfortable with. Even if she could find care, she’d have a hard time paying for it. While the government is offering parents of children under 13 years old $40 a day during the strike to help with childcare costs, the cash will only come in after an agreement is reached. Instead of getting her daughter geared up for her first day of Kindergarten, she’s preparing her to be bounced between the homes of friends and family. Sophie wants the two sides to talk to her mom and see the impact the strike is having on families.
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