CUPE BC President Mark Hancock has no doubt as to who should take the blame for the BC Teachers’ Federation’s prolonged contract dispute with the BC Liberal government.
“Make no mistake. This crisis in education is the direct result of Christy Clark’s 12-year crusade against teachers,” Hancock told a large crowd at a BCTF rally on September 2. “As parents, we will stand with teachers for our kids’ education and their future. And as trade unionists, we will stand with teachers and support them in their fight for a fair contract.”
Clark has led her party’s attack on public education since 2001 when, as Education Minister and Deputy Premier, she tore up collective agreements negotiated with the previous NDP government wherein teachers had given up wages in exchange for the ability to bargain class size and composition.
On Sunday, BCNDP Education Critic Rob Fleming called for Minister Fassbender to be removed from his position. Yesterday, BCNDP Leader John Horgan wrote a letter to the Premier reinforcing that call, and asking the Premier to get directly involved in seeking a resolution.
Download a pdf version of the letter.
Here is the text of the letter.
September 1, 2014
The Honourable Christy Clark
PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, British Columbia
Dear Premier Clark:
Parents across our province have already paid a huge price for your government’s failure to resolve the labour dispute in our public education system. Our children deserve the quality public education the government is responsible for delivering, and parents deserve an end to the stress and uncertainty caused by the disruption. The prolonged dispute is hurting our teaching professionals – a job that deserves respect and support from all parties and members of the legislature and governments of every stripe.
My colleague, Rob Fleming, yesterday called publicly for your education minister to be relieved of his duties as it has become clear Mr. Fassbender is not capable of doing his job of providing public education to all British Columbians. He delayed and obstructed negotiations all summer, denied mediation would work, publicly provoked teachers while mediator Vince Ready finally did meet with both sides, and has been unwilling to negotiate on the vital issue of class size and composition.
It was disappointing to hear this morning that you continue to place your full confidence in Mr. Fassbender. Your continued absence throughout this crisis shows a lack of leadership when British Columbians need it most. Parents, kids, and teachers deserve more from their premier than a series of tweets meant to further inflame the situation and point fingers at teachers. They deserve action towards a real resolution that gets kids back in classrooms and improves the quality of education delivered in our public schools.
British Columbians watched as you proudly proclaimed your involvement in settling the truckers dispute at the federally-regulated Port Metro Vancouver. I urge you to recognize that providing a high quality public education to young British Columbians is even more important to our future economic success. Moreover, every day the dispute continues it disrupts families, communities and productivity in our economy as the families of 500,000 children struggle to deal with the impacts.
We need government leadership that listens to parents, the public and the courts about the importance of addressing class size and composition. That will require better resources for our schools. Your government’s funding freeze is unrealistic and counter-productive to achieving your own stated education goals and the ability to achieve an immediate settlement.
Parents know that in your days as education minister you were directly responsible for unconstitutionally stripping teachers of the right to bargain class size and composition, making it harder to learn and harder to teach a whole generation of BC students.
Our children’s education is too important for you to do nothing but tweet platitudes and let an incapable minister continue on a destructive path. It is past time that you began to make amends for your own record of disruption and decline in classroom quality. I urge you to remove Mr. Fassbender. To show that you do not enter labour disputes simply for credit after the work is done, I urge you to personally and directly involve yourself in the negotiations, setting a new tone that respects teachers and our public education system, and finally bargaining as productively as your government repeatedly promised to do - so our kids can get back to school where they belong.
John Horgan, Leader