First of all I would like to thank Mr. Sawchuk for his opinion, outlined in his letter “To the teachers: What part of no don’t you understand?”, regarding the teacher dispute. I certainly respect everyone’s right to voice their perspectives. I would now like to respectfully ask Mr. Sawchuk, “What part of my letter did he not understand?” I clearly state in my letter that teachers know that there is only so much money to go around. I also state that the main purpose of my letter was to inform people about Bill 22 and what it really means. The majority of my letter explains clauses in the legislation. He clearly seems to have missed my point. The sticking point in negotiations is not the wage increase, or benefits. As I stated, while a cost of living increase would be nice, that is not why negotiations have gone sideways. This battle is not about wages or benefits. “Us” teachers are upset at our constitutional rights being attacked and undermined. We resent not being allowed the same rights as everyone else under the constitution in order to negotiate our contract. We resent a government that continually breaks the law and never has to pay the consequence for doing so.
It is also unfortunate that much of his opinion is based on inaccurate information. First of all, the education budget for BC is actually 4.7 billion, 10 billion less than what was stated in his letter. Secondly, “us” teachers do not receive lump sum payments upon retirement for sick days not used, and in fact there are people in private jobs that do receive lump sum payments for unused sick days upon retirement, based on their individual contracts, which get negotiated between the employer and the employee in the private sector as well. Thirdly, teachers are not the highest paid in Ontario due to the fact that they have the highest number of taxpayers that live in that province. They are the highest paid because they sustained job action for several years in order to gain a better contract for themselves.
In his letter, Mr. Sawchuk points to benefits that teachers have, that others do not. I certainly agree that many people in other jobs deserve more than they currently have. However, it is important to point out that people that choose to work in the private sector also have the ability to negotiate decent wages, benefits and working conditions, with their employer, just as is done in the public sector. It is simply done in a different way. It is also true that most of the benefits that people, in both the public and the private sector, currently enjoy, such as sick leave, paid vacation, maternity leave, safety provisions, and minimum wage levels, would not be around had not unions fought for these rights, on behalf of workers, in the past. Yes, “us” teachers have many good benefits in our contract, but these have come after years of negotiation, concessions and compromise. I could go on to argue the points put forward by Mr. Sawchuk in his letter, but again, the point is being missed. This dispute is not about wages, no matter how many times the government tries to tell you it is.
Mr. Sawchuck also states that he doesn’t believe “us” teachers “have anything to complain about.” In part, perhaps he is correct. Maybe “us” teachers should stop complaining on behalf of the students in our classrooms. Maybe we should just let them fall through the cracks and receive an inadequate or mediocre education due to a lack of resources and funding. Maybe we should stop fighting for more resources to help those students who are struggling in our system. Perhaps we should just take the money being offered for educationally unsound classrooms and just do what we can. Maybe we should stop complaining that billions of dollars are being wasted by our provincial government on items such as roofs for sports stadiums, instead of being invested in our future generations, who will ultimately be responsible for our future prosperity. Maybe we should stop complaining that our government doesn’t care about the constitution and just accept that breaking the law is acceptable when the government does it. Maybe we should stop complaining that we want students to graduate with dignity, honour, and the skill set to allow them to achieve their full potential. Maybe we should stop complaining about being bullied by unconstitutional legislation, and accept that bullying is okay as long as it’s the government doing the bullying. Maybe we should stop complaining about costs being downloaded onto our already overburdened local school districts and just let them deal with the shortfall. Maybe we should stop worrying about each and every student in our classroom and wanting them to succeed. Maybe. Unfortunately, for me, however, I guess I just like to complain.
As for the question as to what part of No that “us” teachers don’t understand, Mr. Sawchuk might want to direct that question at our government. We say NO to underfunded and overcrowded classrooms that jeopardize our students’ ability to succeed. We say NO to the stripping away of our constitutional rights. We say NO to taking away seniority provisions and the right to due process and fair dismissal. We say NO to an attack on our professional integrity. We say NO to Bill 22. Apparently our government doesn’t understand the meaning of NO either.