Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On Bill 22, the LRB, report cards, and raw power

On Friday last week, the Labour Relations Board issued an order insisting that BC teachers complete an extra report card by this Friday. There is a lot to say about this, but let's start with the outcomes:

1. Parents will get an abridged report card next week, and then a very similar one in six weeks time. Very little will be accomplished with respect to student learning. In fact, in all likelihood, the biggest impact to student learning will be from the stressed out, overtired teachers this week.

2. Teachers are more upset and demoralized than ever. One district will be wearing red on Friday. The overwhelming feeling is that of disrespect for the teaching profession and teachers as individuals. Teachers perceive this as an exercise of power, not a sensible pedagogical choice. And they are right. Even the employer's association, BCPSEA, said as much in their application to the labour board.

3. It is more clear than ever that the only remaining lawful form of protest under Bill 22 is the withdrawal of voluntary and extra curricular activities. The report card issue has probably motivated more teachers to adhere to the vote results last week to stop these activities.

The employer, the government and school boards like to say they are acting in students' interests. But in this case, they were simply exercising raw power. The case put forward by the employer did not reference students, the necessity of report cards or the need to report for vulnerable students. The argument from the employer was simply that they have the right to issue an order and have it complied with. They relied on the Education Improvement Act (Bill 22) to support their case. Teachers no longer have the right to collective action so they must do what we say.

The labour board did issue the order, and it was reliant on Bill 22 in doing so. The experience has shone a light on what life for teachers will be like under Bill 22 - a world where BCPSEA, the Ministry of Education, School Boards, Superintendents and Principals make decisions and everyone must simply do as they are told.

This experience was replicated at the District and school level. In my District, Greater Victoria, the Superintendent issued requirements for reporting on Friday. Then, on Tuesday, they changed. No longer could teachers use the report card format in use at their school for years, they had to use software not always available (Report Writer) or an old District template from the 1990's that is no longer accurate. Some teachers who spent the entire weekend completing their reports were told to re-do them on Tuesday. Some teachers were told to submit reports on over 300 students in less than a week, on top of their regular teaching duties.

In Vancouver, where an agreement had been reached for end of year reports, the Board simply reneged on the agreement and changed the rules.

Gone will be the days of collaboration in schools. The new model is indeed that of master and slave - directions and being directed. The exercise of raw power.


  1. The BCTF should put a "pink notice" informing all teacher-applicants not to apply for positions in any BC public schools. If a teacher does accept a position, that teacher will not receive the support from other teachers or from the union.

  2. Teachers better get used to taking orders. This is the 'new order'. Do we have a choice? I think so, but teachers have to be ready to take a stand. That stand may be deemed illegal, but we are up against a government that will change the laws to suit their needs. As workers, our only real power is to withdraw our services. We are withdrawing our voluntary services, but will this be enough? I don't think so. We will, at some point, need to completely withdraw all services if we expect this government to do away with Bill 22, get back to the bargaining table and come up with a fairly negotiated collective agreement. What are teachers afraid of? We have the numbers and there is great power in numbers. It's time to use our power, shut down this disfunctional system and demand that the government take our concerns seriously.