Education NOT An Essential Service

By David D Hull. Labour relations generally take a predictable path leading to both sides entering the “settlement zone” followed by an agreement.

Both parties utilize a number of tools and tactics available to them within governing laws and generally accepted practices. This path can be short or rather long and protracted but it is a journey with an agreed end.

One of the options available to negotiating parties is varying levels, up to full, strike and lock out. The only bargaining groups that do not have this option available are those deemed an essential service.

This can include the entire bargaining group or portions thereof.

The designation of the public education system as an “Essential Service” allows the government to invoke back to work orders and is generally followed by an imposed ‘settlement,’ followed by endless court challenges.

The public education system is vital to our society. It is not essential right here, right now; this day, week or month. Society is not going to crumble if public education is suspended for a period of time.

If the BCTF and the Government are not free to bargain in an unfettered manner the natural, organic, process is hindered and a settlement is not likely achievable.

The government should commit to not use their legislative powers to order teachers back to work or to impose a settlement.

Health, Safety, Sewer, Water, Protective Services are essential services.

Education for the next few weeks or months is not.

In the current climate, negotiations would fail very soon as neither party is anywhere near the ‘settlement zone.’ A full strike or lockout would occur shutting down public K-12 schools. A high state of high motivation to settle would rapidly occur.

The Government, come week three, month two, would be under unbearable pressure by the public to reach a settlement. Their political future would be in serious peril if this situation was prolonged.

The BCTF would be under extreme pressure within 2-3 weeks, two months at most from its membership.

By the third or fourth missed paycheque, with strike pay not available, the membership would feel incredible fiscal pressure. The BCTF ‘war chest’ is already empty so there is not relief to be found there.

The public education system will not ‘lose a season’ à la NHL. And (a big huge) IF they did lose a year it would not be the end of the world.

If the two parties are given a chance to fully exercise the complete range of labour negotiation tools, strategies, and actions a settlement would be reached sooner than later.

Allowing what might be a rather painful and acrimonious – for all parties and the public – process could end the 30 plus years of dysfunctional,
and frankly unacceptable, relationship between the BCTF and successive governments

This would be the practical and realistic answer to the rather simplistic suggestion that we ‘Put them in a room and do not let them out until they have settled.’

Let ‘nature’ take its course.

David D Hull

David D Hull

David D. Hull is a management professional with over 30 years of experience.
Hull has been a lifelong student and active participant in the world big and small, politics, and government.
Hull has spent the majority of his life in very public roles in business, government, and most recently as the driving force behind the
Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce becoming a recognised leader in their field.

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