Sunday, March 11, 2012

How do teachers defeat Bill 22?

In one week, BC teachers will be meeting at our Annual General Meeting to discuss next steps to defeat Bill 22. It is imperative that we look at both what is at stake and what our history tells us about how to move forward in order to protect our own rights as well as the public education system we defend.

Bill 22 is the most draconian piece of legislation faced by BC teachers in my career. Bill 22 sets up a framework for false mediation that would result in the erosion of professional autonomy, the elimination of seniority rights, and the imposition of a potentially arbitrary evaluation process. It also ensures no new funding for any improvements in teacher salaries, meaning teachers will fall behind inflation and further behind our colleagues across Canada. Finally, it re-enacts the elimination of protections for class sizes and class composition from 2002, ensuring further erosion of classroom conditions.

Bill 22 is nothing short of "Wisconsin north" - a direct attack on trade unionism and collective  bargaining for teachers and for the public sector. It is the same type of legislation that the Wisconsin governor brought last year to massively erode public sector bargaining rights in that state. This ignited a string of anti-union legislation in the US. For us, Bill 22 is the first salvo in an employer's offensive towards public sector bargaining rights in BC, and it follows on the heels of the federal Conservative interference in the rights of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Air Canada workers (in various unions) to free collective bargaining.

The stakes are high. Without job security protections and without successfully pushing back on anti-union and anti-democratic legislation, we are opening the door to continued "education reform" that may very quickly plunge the teaching profession into a state of crisis.

In the US, within ten short years teachers have lost job security rights, accepted the imposition of merit pay, and become subject to evaluation systems that are unfair and arbitrary (the "voodoo mathematics" otherwise known as value-added teacher evaluation). American teachers are so demoralized that many are leaving the profession. The largest cohort of US teachers are now those with under five years experience. Teacher morale is at a twenty year low ( For many, teaching has become a miserable job. If you need convincing, read a few accounts from our colleagues in the States:

So what do we do in the face of Bill 22? First and foremost we need to turn to our own history. BC teachers have a proud history of standing up in the face of unfair legislation. In the words of Al Cornes, from Teacher newsmagazine, we need to stand on the shoulders of teachers who have gone before, to ensure a legacy for those to come. In the words of Ken Novokowski, we have a history of swift and solid action: "The BCTF response was swift and united. Four weeks after the legislation was tabled, on April 28, after a province-wide vote, teachers in every local walked off the job and shut down every school in the province to protest the government legislation." If you are a BC teacher, please take a few minutes to read about what actions and strategies have been successful.

Al Cornes in Teacher Newsmagazine:
Ken Novokowski on the history of the BCTF:
BCTF history of collective bargaining:


  1. Come to a public discussion entitled

    Can Teachers Defeat Bill 22?

    Thursday 15 March, 7:30pm-9pm
    W2 Media Cafe, Vancouver

    All welcome!

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