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LETTER: More at stake in education negotiations than just wages

To the Editor;

Teachers in the Boundary are very upset and completely disillusioned with the Liberal government's attack on public education and basic union rights that have been fairly negotiated over the past few decades.

To make it clear, teachers would much rather be in classrooms with students and only escalated their job action to a full strike after carefully considering the impact Bill 22 would have on public education and working conditions in schools in the future.

Much of the provincial media attention has focused on our request for a fair salary increase but that is only a small part of what we are trying to negotiate.  Class size and composition has always been at the top of teachers' concerns and Bill 22 will remove all limits to this.  As early as this coming September, we could see much higher class sizes, each containing a higher number of students with mild to severe learning and behavioural issues.  Despite the government message that claims this bill will improve education, it will do the exact opposite.  Learning conditions in classrooms across the province will get worse simply so the government can save money.

Bill 22 is designed to strip language out of our collective agreement revolving around seniority, posting and filling, evaluation and dismissal, and professional autonomy.  In other words, teachers will be hired simply based on whether the employer "thinks" they are the most suitable.  There will be no process in place to make sure this is done fairly.  Any teacher, at any level of experience could be considered unsuitable by administration and lose their job.  This could mean that personality and the ability to always see eye to eye with administration will be a stronger factor in job security than experience and skill in the classroom.

Teachers have always been the voice of reason in education matters and often publicly disagree with actions taken by this government that do not support student learning.  This legislation will effectively muzzle the voices of teachers because to talk out against the government will increase their chances of being fired. If teachers aren't allowed to stand up for students, who will?

Teachers across the province have said "NO" to this legislation and the bully tactics of a Liberal government that is clearly out of touch with the needs of students and teachers' rights to be treated fairly.  We desperately, hope this bill will be defeated in the legislature and the parties can sit back down at the bargaining table to reach a fairly negotiated agreement.

Kids Matter, Teachers Care!

Norm Sabourin
President,
Boundary District Teachers' Association