About 60 people turned out to the Langley Teachers’ Association public forum July 16 on why teachers are still striking.
The local teachers union invited several people to participate. The local Langley MLAs and two Langley mayors were could not fit the event into their schedules.
The forum attracted mostly people connected with education, including many teachers, as the LTA, the BC Teachers Federation, the Langley School District vice chair and others made presentations and responded to questions to get their views out there to counter the messages being put out by the provincial government.
Mooring said the BCTF is open to mediation this summer but said the government wanted concessions before it would enter mediation.
“We feel we’ve made a lot of compromise,” said Teri Mooring, the BC Teachers Federation second vice-president.
NDP MLA David Eby, of Vancouver Point Grey, talked about the political agenda behind the Liberal government’s actions and what he called the “bizarre fiscal policy” that prolongs the strike to save money by not having kids in class. Eby added that the Liberals want the education system to appear broken to justify the changes they want to make, including increased privatization.
He and other speakers noted the court judgements against the government over class size and composition. The province is appealing the latest B.C. Supreme Court decision.
“There’s a real problem when you have a government disregarding what the court is saying to it,” Eby added.
The BCTF has found the government much more aggressive than in the past, commented Mooring.
She pointed to the 10 per cent pay reduction. The employer (BCPSEA which negotiates on behalf of the provincial government) had previous applied for a pay reduction but the Labour Relations Board rejected it in the past.
The LRB approved it for this job action. This time the employer brought in time limits, saying teachers could only be at work 45 minutes before and after the school day and were restricted for recess and lunchtime.
The provincial government says it can’t afford teacher demands. BC Federation of Labour secretary-treasurer Irene Lanzinger noted that this Liberal government brought in tax cuts and corporate tax cuts when first elected, foregoing billions in revenue that could fund public services.
“It is one of the richest provinces in one of the richest countries in the world,” noted Iglinka Ivanova, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
She said going back to 2001 taxation levels would bring in an extra $2 billion from taxpayers.
And if B.C. had the average Canadian tax rate, and not the lowest as it does now, it would bring in more than $1 billion annually.
Ivanova pointed to the Liberals’ temporary tax rate for those earning $150,000 or more. It expires in December 2015 and was intended to bring in extra tax revenue.
“They have shown that it is possible to change tax rates,” she noted.
LTA president Gail Chaddock-Costello explained about the teachers’ union decision to picket the school district head office, which impacts CUPE members.
She said the CUPE members who joined LTA members on the picket lines receive strike pay.
As well CUPE has reached an agreement with the provincial government but Langley’s local hasn’t ratified it yet.
When it is, pay provisions come into effect and those CUPE members affected by the picketing are not going to lose pay and get to keep any strike pay, Chaddock-Costello noted.
She added that the LTA consulted with other unions before taking any action. The pickets lasted one week.
“We don’t take any of this lightly,” she said. “Yes, sometimes there are negative comments in the media.”
Irene Lanzinger, with the BC Federation of Labour, noted that unions must decide whether they go out in support of striking unions.
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