OP/ED: Weather is looking unstable for the province of B.C.

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 5th, 2012

By now it is not news to our readers that the B.C. government is pushing through their legislation to force teachers back to work after they won the right to strike last week. What is disconcerting is that this strike action is just the beginning of what could well be a labour tsunami.

Teachers have been negotiating with the province over the past year, started their work to rule action last September, and are stepping up their action by walking off the job this week. The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) received the full support of the B.C. Federation of Labour – 450,000 people strong – as they prepared for this action.

The province is holding firm to their net-zero mandate – no increases to manage their budgets.

But the teachers are not the only union members attempting to come to an agreement with the province, they are just the first to be so far along in their negotiations, or should I say the first to be completely halted in their negotiations.

Coming soon to a negotiation table near you will be the doctors, nurses, and other medical support staff.

Yes, Mar. 31 will see several contracts up for renewal in the province, and while there are currently some temporary extensions, there may well be further job actions involving several labour sectors.

Could we be looking at province-wide strike action should this government continue to play hard-ball with the unions? And what does this say for the future of labour in our province?

The legislation tabled last week by the province proposes a mediated settlement with a net-zero mandate, which means the government is not interested in any wage or benefit increases. How can this be a mediated settlement when the terms of the agreement are laid out in the legislation?

The teachers are asking for a 15 percent increase over the term of the contract – three years – and have been without a contract since June 2011.

Despite the heavy penalties for strike action outlined in the legislation should it come into effect, many teachers have said they are willing to risk the fines to stand up for fair labour negotiations.

Has the B.C. government effectively killed the collective bargaining process by their actions? Where can we expect to be in three months time – with an entire province on an illegal strike as the B.C. Federation leads protests against a government that has collapsed labour relations?

I predict a very unstable climate for the next few months with a high chance of strikes as the ball game moves into the final innings with the education minister on the pitching mound, and the health minister in the catcher’s zone.

What do you see for the next few months? Is the weather from where you stand fair or unstable? Let us hear your comments below.

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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