Once a month, North Okanagan Labour Council President David Doran is given the opportunity to set the business community straight with a column in Kelowna's Capital News newspaper. Here's his column for February, 2002:
The legislated settlement for the teachers was to be expected. The employer made one proposal that stripped the contract and refused to budge.
The government sets a deadline; encourages the employer to refuse to negotiate then declares an impasse and imposes a settlement.
The settlement is a rollback for many teachers even with the 2.5 per cent pay raise per year. In school districts that were amalgamated, the lowest cost agreement is adopted. In Burns Lake teachers will lose approximately $5,000 per year.
At local meetings across the province, it was the BCTF members who gave direction to their executive, not the other way around. Anyone who thinks that the membership is being dragged along or fooled is making a major error.
The teachers who had not received a pay raise in eight years justifiably felt a substantial raise was in order. These demands were based on the example set by the government in granting 34 per cent wage increases to its own deputy ministers in an attempt to "attract and retain the best people."
The issue of wages has erroneously become the trademark of this dispute. The real issues are the cuts to educational services. These cuts will increase class sizes, reduce the servicing of specialty teachers like counsellors, librarians and learning assistants, as well as jeopardize special needs students.
The intent of the Liberals is clear. To gain absolute power by first removing the bargaining rights of the unions, then attacking organized labour. Then, once having eliminated any dissent by using bills to silence opposition, it becomes a simple task to privatize schools for profit.
The need to "balance the budget" or "trim spending" or "remove the deficit" has been fabricated.
The government donated billions of dollars in tax reductions to business (more than they asked for) and the wealthy. Then they claimed there was no money for health care, education and other public services.
The Bills 27, 28, 29 should be recognized for what they are. For it is union-busting in the extreme, containing clauses that void valid collective agreements for the most trivial of reasons.
When negotiations started 10 months ago the government had a surplus. The deficit is totally due to the tax cuts this government handed out and cannot be blamed on the NDP.