The Teachers Union in BC – who is victimizing whom?

BC teachers deserve the ability to opt out of the BCTF

In summer of 2011 a colleague asked when I thought the “limited strike” would end. My response was pragmatic and pessimistic.  I indicated that I expected the “strike” to drag on through the year, with a break during summer of 2012 and full scale escalation beginning in September 2012 closer to the time of the provincial election. I further anticipated that the BCTF leadership would fail to bargain effectively as it has consistently done in the past, and that teachers would again be legislated back to work. 

Why would I expect this? Primarily because the leadership of the BCTF has consistently failed to demonstrate that it can be an effective union or an effective union of professionals. The individuals who are most disadvantaged by this failure are the individual teachers who each school day interact with students in classrooms.

I am not an apologist for government and I am not anti-union. However, were I teacher and a member of the BCTF, I would be concerned about the leadership of the union, its political agendas and its willingness to cast its members in the role of “victim”.

BCTF rhetoric perpetuates a myth that government, regardless of political party, is intent on victimizing teachers, does not respect what they do or respect them as individuals. To demonstrate respect for teachers, government merely must accede to all union demands irrespective of cost to the taxpayers or necessary services in other sectors, such as health, that would have to be reduced or eliminated.

BCTF leadership also perpetuates a myth that what the BCTF seeks at the bargaining table is “for the students”. A brief glance at the initial proposals the BCTF brought to the table would suggest otherwise. Not one would have had a direct and positive effect on the learning environment for students in classrooms.  

These have been consistent BCTF strategies through successive rounds of bargaining. If the leadership can convince BCTF members that government is deliberately victimizing them collectively and individually, then the union leadership has latitude to use any and all means to protect the members from “bullying by government”. While focused on being bullied by government only a few members will ask: what about BCTF bullying? What about a union that claims to be democratic, but seeks to supplant government to dominate and to control public education? What about a union that will exercise its influence to silence dissenting views or limit the careers of teachers who express dissenting views?   

Perhaps the time has come to question whether there are alternate ways to organize. The current BCTF union structure as a post entry closed shop is dysfunctional and costly to the very society it claims to serve.

Currently, the only checks and balances in the relationship between government representing the electorate and the BCTF representing its members are legal. The BCTF has become adept at using legal means to stall, to challenge and to threaten individuals who speak out in opposition to the BCTF leadership.

The law is a blunt instrument in this relationship and legal decisions are routinely misinterpreted by the BCTF in public releases crafted to ensure that teachers continue to believe that they are being victimized. To be fair, the BCTF has occasionally used legal means to positive ends, but whether the gains have been worth the cost to the members is open to question.

Perhaps if the members had the option either not to join the union or to pay only for those services from which they benefit monetarily, such as the cost of negotiations, there would be greater incentives for the BCTF to bargain effectively rather than attempting to use the bargaining process as a means to influence political outcomes in provincial or local elections.

There are alternate examples in the USA and in the EU. Rather than closed shops, there are agency shops in which non-union members pay fees, but specifically for the cost of negotiating a contract. Or, there are open shops in which union membership is not required. These are more common in the EU and recognize the individual’s right not to belong to a union.

BC desperately needs at least a discussion about possible options. What currently exists does not serve the members or the public. It seems primarily to serve the leadership of the BCTF.

– post by Carol Gibson

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  • Eli W.

    I’m afraid your title is misleading. Let me explain why “Corporate Education; or, how we can do away with public education and learn to love the private-enterprise model instead” would be more appropriate.

    “The leadership of the BCTF has consistently failed to demonstrate that it can be an effective union or an effective union of professionals”

    No it hasn’t. The fact that you have written this piece is sound evidence to the contrary. A union is an advocacy agent, and the BCTF is an advocate with gusto.

    “Perhaps if the members had the option either not to join the union or to pay only for those services from which they benefit monetarily, such as the cost of negotiations, there would be greater incentives for the BCTF to bargain effectively …”

    The BCTF came to the table with a surplus of nogotiable items. The BCPSEA seems to have been instructed to offer nothing.

    “…rather than attempting to use the bargaining process as a means to influence political outcomes in provincial or local elections.”

    While 75% of the union membership voted to support an official political position, the current “political outcomes” (if by that you mean the polls and some recent by-elections) in BC are entirely the result of the government itself.

    “There are alternate examples in the USA and in the EU.”

    For decades, BC governments have been pushing for a more American-style approach to education based on a free-market, private-enterprise model. It’s a perfect way to get out of the business of public education. I get it. Public education is expensive.

    Canadians across the nation don’t do things that way. We are not a free-market capitalist republic like the US is. We prefer rigorous legislating and good government over the sort of economic darwinism that has brought the American economy to its knees. You can attribute our respected education system to our love of good government. You can attribute our robust dollar to it, as well.

    Frankly, you are going to have to be more specific than “in the USA and in the EU” for that argument to make enough sense for a more specific rebuttal, but our system and our BCTF both work pretty well. The polls, and the recent by-elections, confirm that sometimes our government does not.

    Teachers are not naive – they know when they are being victimized and when they are being manipulated. A majority of them know that politics is muddy at best and that rhetoric is, at best, a necessary evil. And a majority of them currently feel that the BCTF is doing exactly the right thing.

    The membership of the BCTF will let you know when BC needs a change.

    Believe me (and I’m pretty sure you do), we’re loud when we feel we’re right.

    • Max

      @Eli W:

      ‘Teachers are not naive – they know when they are being victimized and when they are being manipulated. …… And a majority of them currently feel that the BCTF is doing exactly the right thing.’

      And so do the taxpayers footing the bill at the end of the day.

      We too are tired of being victimized and manipulated by union(s) and their greed.

      Or is 10 days of paid leave for the ‘death of a friend’ a legitimate ‘negotiable’ demand????

      Sadly as one commentor posted a few weeks back – unions are a parasite that devour their host. With the case of private sector unions, it is the company that suffers, With the case of public sector unions, it is the taxpayer that suffers.

      If you believe that teachers, their ‘reputation’ and public perception aren’t harnessed to the BCTF and its actions – you are delusional.

      And one more thing, NEVER, insult the public by stating the BCTF’s actions is ‘for the kids’.

      • Ned

        “Sadly as one commentor posted a few weeks back – unions are a parasite that devour their host.”
        I second that.

    • skippy

      BCTF’s own research posits that its members salaries rank 9th compared to other provincial jurisdictions. Sounds to me by their own admission they are ineffective negotiators.

      • boohoo

        God these posts are depressing. So much misinformation it’s sad.

        Skippy I’ll touch on yours to start. Their salary is lower than others partly because about 10 years ago they took a 0% increase for the ability to negotiate class size/composition.

        Of course that’s been unilaterally taken away from them so a lot of good ‘negotiating in good faith’ did.


        And you use the 10 day grieving thing as the prime example of how horrible it all is. Well, that along with every other point of the BCTF’s position was up for negotiation. On how many points was BCPSEA prepared to negotiate again?

        • skippy

          So boohoo, your “facts” are that in 2002 (about 10 years ago as you suggest) BCTF negotiated class size restrictions? That would have been with the Campbell liberals? hmmmmm…I don’t think so. There were class size restrictions negotiated with the NDP government. The Premiers office ( at the time) undermined the collective bargaining process by making side deals circumventing the school board negotiators. Political collusion between organized labour and the NDP is not free collective bargaining. Its a political pay off for support and for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct and in kind contributions, the latter of which goes largely unreported.

          • boohoo

            You’re skippy, 10 years ago it was their negotiated terms that were illegally ripped away, not when they negotiates for those rights. My mistake, thanks for clarifying.

            My point, should you choose to acknowledge it is that only one party here was even willing to negotiate.

  • Eli

    @Max Ok. I didn’t say that the BCTF’s actions are “for the kids”, in fact I said the contrary, but thanks for getting that out there nonetheless.

    Teachers are scorned and beloved. It has always been that way (in North America, that is) and it has nothing to do with the BCTF.

    • Bill

      The issue all you supporters of the BCTF ignore is why not have an open shop and make membership in the BCTF optional (payment of fees for bargaining would still be mandatory for all teachers) If the majority of teachers like what the BCTF is doing then they should have no problem in attracting members who would have the freedom to choose.

  • Daniel Fontaine

    CKNW has just sent out this tweet…

    “Burnaby elementary students lose out on a trip to Quebec City because the BCTF says the teach can’t go. What do you think?”

    • gman

      Yep,its all about the kids.I wonder if the parents had to buck up for the trip and now the money is non-refundable?

      • Max


        There have been questions surrounding the dollars paid in advance for activites, like sports etc.

        Many of the activities have been canceled.

        Do those parents get their monies refunded?

  • Stuart

    Failed to bargain effectively? They haven’t bargained at all because the Liberal government refused to bargain. Bargaining isn’t saying I won’t talk about it. Bargaining isn’t saying one thing and one thing only. Bargaining isn’t making laws to end collective rights. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions. The provincial government had no intention of negotiating, which is why we are in the predicament that we are in. By all means be a mouth piece for the provincial government but don’t use ridiculous arguments.

    • Max


      How about this – as the taxpayers are on the hook – why not lay the full details, salaries, benefits everything out for us to review.

      Or do the teachers and the BCTF really want us to know all the ins and outs of the contracts?

  • Well, I think we all have friends that we love dearly enough that a few days to absorb their loss would be, in the long run, the healthier, more productive way to go. Certainly I can see how dealing with kids, who can be pesky and demanding of attention, would be a real challenge and also, it wouldn’t be great for small kids, who need to see the adults in their life as capable, to have to witness their teacher undergoing the emotional ups and downs that can accompany the first days of a permanent loss of someone you love.

    Further, in our fragmented society, many people don’t live in the same town as their immediate family and it can fall upon friends to handle the funeral arrangements and other tasks that must be dealt with in the immediate aftermath of a death, so some consideration for that reality doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable demand, especially if the deceased’s immediate family has financial or logistical challenges of their own they have to contend with before they can travel.

    Finally, while I’m not privy to the details, salaries, and benefits being negotiated (or not negotiated in this instance) one suspects it’s an opening position, much as the government’s initial offer isn’t expected by either side to be the final contract. Which is natural in any negotiation, from an employment contract (union or non) to a house or car purchase.

    The real bottom line is that all the disruptions to the 2012 school year are a result of the provincial government’s decisions to act unilaterally, with the hope that the populace will have a knee-jerk reaction to the inconveniences by blaming teachers. Sadly for the government, most of the people in the province have had their fill of the Liberal government’s penchant for obfuscation. A government that can find millions of dollars from the public purse to buy the silence of the law-breakers in its employ, is unlikely to find a sympathetic ear from an electorate that assumes every gov’t announcement is another lie in a long litany of falsehoods.

    • rf

      I believe that this single benefit request really hurt the teachers the most. It was nothing to do with it being reasonable.
      It hurt them because is was disingenuous.

      Teachers can take sick days whenever they want. Mental health, physical health, whatever. They don’t have to explain themselves. There are a million substitutes ready to go.
      The request for bereavement leaves made the public roll their collective eyes because it would be so obviously abused. Not by all teachers, but certainly by many.
      It was a request that was out of touch with the rest of our working realities.

      Even the suggestion that “this is just a proposed initiative, open to negotiation” was ridiculous.

      It’s not a concession if it’s a ridiculous request in the first place.

      For Teachers to put forth a bunch of obviously unrealistic labour conditions, then say, “Ok, we will give up those demands in exchange for…”

      It was as if the teachers thought they were negotiating with their students. It made them look childish and in need of a reality check.

      • RF:

        you said, “It was a request that was out of touch with the rest of our working realities.”

        But I will point you to two examples from right here in Canada….

        from Manitoba’s bereavement leave criteria:
        “any other person whom the employee considers to be like a close relative, whether or not they are related by blood, adoption, marriage, or common-law relationship.”
        (up to three days)

        included in the Yukon’s criteria:
        “A person who considers the employee to be, or whom the employee considers to be, “like a close relative”.”
        (up to 7 days)

        The reality it seems is that rather than work together to ensure the ‘rising tide floats all boats’ some folks are more enthusiastic about ensuring no one gets a better deal than them. It’s a shame, and especially ironic when it comes from those who routinely characterize their own belief in economic systems where maximizing your benefit from a deal is the ne plus ultra of acheivement.

    • Bill

      If they are such dear friends why wouldn’t you take a few days without pay to deal with it? Oh that’s right, Progressives always are willing to do the right thing with other people’s money.

      • gman

        Bill they say socialism works great until you run out of other peoples money.LOL

  • Eli


    You’re welcome. From now on, maybe do your own research?

    @bill. Are you suggesting that an open shop is something the ministry should try bargaining for? It seems like Carol is, but she doesnt quite say so. We paid for that clause in our contract back in ’84 when our wages were rolled back. Believe me, we “supporters of the BCTF” don’t ignore the idea. The majority of us just don’t like it.

    @stuart Nicely said.

    • Max


      An overview of ‘benefits’ without a costing is useless.

      What I am referring to – a complete breakdown of all costs associated with the contract. Not details of what medical services are covered; how many sick days; car mileage etc. What is the final number at the end of the day?

      Initial reports that all in, salary and benefits – the taxpayers were looking at being hit for $2.06 billion dollars this go around.

      $2.06 BILLION.

      That is far from a small sum of money.

    • Bill

      The right to not belong to the union is a matter of personal freedom and is not something that needs to be negotiated between the union and the employer any more than any other personal freedoms.

      • Max

        @ Bill:

        And yet one of the opening paragraphs in the collective agrements surrounds belonging to and supporting the union.

      • Waltyss

        In this and every other jurisdiction in Canada, if the majority of people at at worksite vote in favour of joining a union, and the parties negotiate a union shop, then all must join unless they can establish a religious exception. At a minimum they must pay dues.
        it’s called the democracy of the workplace.
        When van der Zalm was premier, he set out a scheme for the teachers to unionize or adopt another sytem which was more “professional”. The teachers overwhelmingly opted to unionize.
        On what basis does Carol Gibson or anyone else suggest that that right should be taken away from teachers and only teachers. So BC can be like Mississippi or Indiana, right to work states where people, including teachers, are lucky to have a $10 per hour job.
        Carol, honey, you say you are not anti-union. Sorry, baby, but you are.

        • Bill

          By your logic, if we held a referendum and the majority voted in favour that in order to work in BC you had to belong to a union then that would be ok since it is majority rules. The freedom of association is meaningless unless you also retain the right not to associate. It is doublespeak to say that allowing people the freedom of choice to join the union is taking away a right. Yet again you prove that Progressive is just Socialism rebranded.

          • “The freedom of association is meaningless unless you also retain the right not to associate.”

            There are numerous private schools in the province, tutoring services, and if one wants to be an entrepreneur, no reason one can’t set up shop to offer private education opportunities. A teacher has many options beyond the public system, so if a union workplace is distasteful to them, they are free to find other avenues of employment.

          • Bill

            @ Chris Keam

            Following your logic then, it would be ok for an employer to require employees to join a particular political party as a condition of employment as long as the employee had other employment opportunities if they did not want to join.

  • kim

    If I’m not mistaken, each school district’s collective agreement is posted on the website.

    My child is going to Quebec City in 2 weeks as are several other schools this month. The teachers wrote the BCTF and the school board prior to meeting with parents to obtain permission regardless of what goes on with the bargaining. This was because we parents were not willing to risk thousands of dollars based on the strike situation. Perhaps the Burnaby school had voted on just cancelling the trip. I don’t know the details.

  • boohoo

    Yes Kim they are, along with other details Max could easily find on his/her own. But it’s not as fun as yelling numbers with no context so they appear scary.

  • eric

    The BCTF is a socialist political activist movement and has almost nothing to do with teaching. Militant political activists conducted a successful hostile takeover of the teacher’s union a long time ago. The political calendar is of more importance to the BCTF than the scholastic calendar. The well being of the students is an incidental, sometimes inconvenient, side show. To the BCTF the parents are unenlightened gatecrashers.

    • gman

      eric I thought you might be interested in this book,its a history of the takeover of the education system. These Fabian socialists are a very patient group and they’ve made a lot of headway in the last few decades.

    • Waltyss

      Eric, thank you for your rant. Do you have anything useful to say?
      The BCTF is a union whose job is to represent its members and get them the best deal possible. That’s what they are for and what they do.
      That teachers say they are about the students is laughable, although it must be said that class sizes and competition are in the interests of both teachers and students. In that arena, the teachers have done a decent job, at least until, contract buster Gordo Campbell came along. Remember Gordo, he was one of your NPA candidates for mayor.
      While it is very difficult to feel sorry for teachers, the truth of the matter is that the government has come along and said that while they have no money and nothing to offer, they want to negotiate concessions. Gee, surprise, surprise, the teachers refuse to negotiate.
      That said, in this economic climate, most of the teachers’ demands were ludicrous, even as opening bargaining tools.

  • Max:

    2 billion divided by 4.5 million (population of the province) = $444.444444 per capita.


    But are there godless communists under my bed? That’s the real issue (not).

    Sad to see the war on children and organized labour has so many willing foot soldiers.

    • gman

      So Chris according to your fantasy numbers I guess my gran daughter and her little friends are going to have to come up with $444.444 each,does that include her little dogs too?And as far as a communist being under your bed,well no Chris I would say the communist is in your bed.

    • gman

      And Chris you can subtract the teachers from that 4.5 million number also as they don’t really pay taxes they just recirculate tax money.

    • eric

      Dear Comrade Chris,
      The Health Employees Union is just the same. Entering their head office one immediately sees massive posters and banners that are all political and very much like the posters of 1960’s Soviet times. Nothing about well-being. It is immediately clear which is the right way to vote and to think.

      It is sad to see the war being fought using children. To the BCTF the damage to the entire lives of the children is just collateral damage in the glorious war on the capitalistic system.

      Can it be any wonder that parents increasing send their children to private schools?

      What amazes me is that this situation has gone on for so long. I do hope that the BCTF pushes for a big strike. I doubt they have the balls for that because they know damn well that so much will come out in the press about their extreme madness and their fat, cushy contracts, they will completely lose the PR war.

      The public needs a few years of stress-leave from this gang.

      • Max


        As is the film industry.

        There is a course that you are required to take on how to work with/in the union, before you are even hired. I believe is is $150 (?) out of pocket, with no job guaranteed at the end of the day.

        But, it is a requirement as part in parcel of the resume process.

  • jenables

    2.06 billion? What is that, like a fancy roof, a convention center and the bctc? I’d rather put that cash into education, personally. I don’t think it’s an easy task, dealing with these kids but I do think it’s worth paying for. I mean, how can you spend half that money on a CONVENTION CENTER??

    • Max


      The Convention Centre will turn profit. According to current bookings, in about 4 years time.

      In the meantime, the city and province benefit from conventions coming here through….taxes. Taxes that support this city, taxes that pay into education, medical, social services and the ongoing and endless list of programs ‘Government’ is expected to support. (And some are just ridiculous)

      Hotels, meals, taxis, entertainment etc – conference attendees spend good dollars in this city. Conferences help support workers in the tourism industry.

      If you would rather see the money handed over to say … Seattle, raise your hand. I am sure they would be thrilled to take the millions upon millions of dollars – annually.

      After all, we’ve already lost some of the cruise ship business to Seattle, why not hand them more?

      • boohoo

        4 years?? Who can wait that long?! I want instant gratification. This investing in education scam is even worse, we won’t reap the profits from these kids for over a decade! What a waste. Privatize it all, make money now!! Future? Meh.

    • Working Mom

      @jenables – You say put the cash in to education. That is fine – but are you referring to lining the pockets of the BCFT? Or pay teachers more for doing less???

      Yes more money should go into schools. Like having more new efficiently run schools, updated equipment in the classrooms and labs, create more trades programs because many children don’t want to go to university or can’t afford it.

      We need more funds to go into programs that help the prevention of drug/alcohol use and gangs in the schools.

      We should have more scholarship grants for the students. We should create more after school programs our children so that they get additional help with their homework and have a fun safe environment until their working parents can pick them up after work.

      To say we should have more money in education is it true – but just to keep pissing the money away on BCTF, teacher salaries and outrageous benefits is not going to help our children.

      For you to say that money should not have been spent on the convention center – is so asinine and short sighted.

      We are now having some of the largest international conferences being hosted here in Vancouver because of the convention center.

      In February there was a Family Science Days during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held at the convention center. It was free for all parents and children. My child got the chance to meet with people from NASA, Canada Space Agency, scientists, engineers and try many different activities. It was amazing. Vancouver has never has something like this before and it was truly an amazing opportunity for children and their parents.

      Oh but wait – you think money from the convention center should go into the greedy bank accounts of BCTF and teachers while depriving children an amazing opportunity to meet astronaut Chris Hadfield and learn about the wonders of science and technology – while thousands of attendees visited Vancouver, booking up hotel rooms, visiting restaurant, sightseeing and spending money.

      If you have has some education or even common sense you would know that means economics and revenue for the city.

  • Gman:
    I didn’t make the claim that every person in the province is paying that number. That’s just the way the numbers work out. Of course, regardless of age we all pay taxes that go into general revenue, when we make purchases.

    Nor am I a communist. But I’m pretty used to you misrepresenting me and my views. Since it’s devolved to that level I’ll take my leave and hopefully a productive discussion can take place without a useful idiot such as myself for you and Eric to provide fodder for your paranoid fantasies.

  • gman

    More and more parents are choosing to opt-out of public education realizing their kids only have one shot at a good education and that’s frightening for the BCTF.Some are tired of the BS and uncertainty and some are looking for what used to be a more classical education minus all the social agendas attached to the public system.

  • Eli

    @gman That might be news to you, but it’s not news to anybody who is actively involved in education in our province.

    The government has an interest in a more robust private education system – because it costs the government nothing.

    That trend has been going on since before the BCTF. That trend exists in most of the industrialized world.

    It should be frightening to everybody that we have a government that is so bent on getting out of public education.

    But it shouldn’t be a surprise.

  • Eli

    I stand corrected.

    Its not that private schools don’t come at a cost to the government.

    The government provides for 30-50% of their costs.

    I can see why our government is pumping 150 million dollars a year into private schools, given that value.

    50-70% per cent off? That’s a pretty good value…for the parents who can afford it.

    Check it out on the BC Private and Independant Schools website.

    • gman

      Thanks for the link Eli.These parents pay the same taxes as the rest of us and the school only get as stated 35 to 50% of the funding,you could say it is more because of the tax credits the parents get back.I think the bigger question is freedom of choice.We live in a very diverse society and I don’t believe parents should be forced to educate their kids in a collective system that may not agree with their personal beliefs.The public system will never go the way of the dodo and private schools only manage to reduce some of the stress that the public system is presently under.The people I know who have their kids enrolled in private school are far from rich but are willing to go the extra mile for what they believe is in the best interest of their children.

  • Richard Unger

    Dear Carol,

    I agree. The “time has come to question whether there are alternate ways to organize.” BCTF’s “union structure as a post entry closed shop is dysfunctional and costly to the very society it claims to serve.”

    You ask the teachers, maybe you’ll be able to get some straight answers, if you are lucky. I think, that deep down there, they want to hang on to their union status, even when they disagree with the position they are taking.

    But one thing is certain. One cannot ask for more money when there is none left. There have to be other solutions. BCTF are hard at logic as they are driven by doctrine.


    Richard Unger MD (Ret)

    • boohoo

      Where is the logic in saying there is no money left when that’s clearly not true?

  • Waltyss

    Ricky, you say you are retired doctor. Has dementia set in or a bit too much tipple at lunch time?
    What does “BCTF are hard at logic as they are driven by doctrine” mean?

  • Working Mom

    I want to ask all of these posts people – how many of you have a child or children in the school system now? I am reading these posts and I shake my head.

    @Eli – are you smoking crack? Because it is obvious you are delusional in thinking the BCTF is a good thing. They are only in for themselves and the monies they gain from union dues. Yes teachers are being victimized, but they are allowing this to happen themselves. Because like an abusive marriage, the teachers don’t know how to stand up for themselves and have the fear of God (BCTF) that they will not be able to teach in BC at all or receive some sort of retribution if they stand up again this monster.

    I really believe that teachers should have the freedom to choose whether they want to join a union or not, AND not be punished for it.

    Because of BCTF greed they have stripped away the quality and quantity teaching and enrichment for children – OUR FUTURE.

    Many parents who have their children in public schools are forced to spend more money and time in providing proper education that the school is supposed to provide.

    TEACHERS have more access to our children during the week and we expect then to provide the right tools to help them succeed. Not to be high paying babysitters.

    I have spoken to countless parents who are scared – yes SCARED for their children’s welfare because of the poor teaching practices or lack of care which is instilled by BCTF beliefs.

    • My child is bilingual and the school said that it was great because he could help the teacher be a translator in his class! My child is 6 years old!!!!! And they want him to work for a teacher?

    • Another 6 year old has problems with his teacher – she does not like him and makes this known to his whole class – he is terrified to go to school and does not want to learn.

    • One parent’s child is suicidal because the teacher expects that this A+ student should be a teacher support with some of the special needs in the class. That poor student does not even have a chance to learn in her own classroom and is upset because she can’t study.

    • BCTF wants to eliminate handwriting classes because children are using computers!

    • BCTF wants to eliminate tests – so we as parents don’t know how well our kids are doing in school.

    • There are pedophile teachers that BCTF protects and keeps them teaching and a danger to children.

    You don’t like private schools – well here is the reality – ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE RUN LIKE A PRIVATE SCHOOL.

    Yes I will admit that I now have my child in a catholic school. I have to work extra hard to pay the monthly fee and do a lot of volunteering at the school. As a parent I also buy school supplies for the whole class each year and do a lot of fundraising. All parents in the school do this and it creates a great sense of community commitment. Something BCTF has no clue about.

    But I know when my child comes home he has learned the fundamentals of reading, writing, math and NO politics and manipulation from teachers and BCTF has been shoved down this throat. I know that the teacher are truly dedicated to the profession and are held accountable for their quality of work. Just like any normal private sector business.

    I am also not a rich person that can afford the expensive private schools – I am a single working mom who wants the best for their child.

    I spoke to a principal once who quit because she could not deal with the unions anymore – both BCTF and CUPE staff were constantly filing very petty grievances that sucked up time and financial resources. She also had a very difficult time in trying to turn the school around because of BCTF.

    I really feel that an audit should be done in the schools on how much money is being wasted on grievances and “leave of absences.”

    However, in agreeing that the BCTF victimizes the teachers – it is truly sad that the teachers –rather than standing up to this group – they in turn victimize our children and the parents.

    It is time to bring back professionalism into the teaching profession and maybe the way to do this is get rid of the BCTF, have teachers re-evaluated and put a system in place that teacher get paid based on their performance and not seniority.

    • Max

      Well said @Working Mom.


    • eric

      Yes. Well said.

  • boohoo

    Ok, we’ve reached pedophile stage, this thread is great lol.

    • eric

      Descending into snide remarks and laughing about serious matters will win you no friends.

  • rf

    Do the unionites on this list believe that it is “a bad thing” that I work harder, sacrifice luxuries, save money, and try to earn more money (paying more taxes)… that I have the option to send my kid to private school when the time comes?

    I went to public school. I grew up a block from a private school.

    Sincerely, the number one reason I don’t want to send my kid to public school is the BCTF, the strike threats, and the socialist dogma.

    So I work harder and make money savings choices so that I have the option of affording private school.

    Do the Teachers Union spokepeople on this site want to tell me that I’m a bad person for wanting to afford private school? Is that bad for society?

    Sincerely, I put my kid’s education before your collective bargaining. Union led education is not the only education on this planet, it’s just my cheapest option. Many of us are accepting the cost of private education as a worthwhile expense just to avoid the constant garbage of BCTF teachers. You are dealing with a group of new parents, with kids who are just entering the school system, who all too often are discovering that the people from high school who chose to become teachers were either idealogues or slackers. The brightest and most passionate of them (certainly not all) seem to have already chose to teach in the private system.

    Do you not see the irony? You claim to be fighting for the kids…..but all it makes me want to do is keep my kid as far away from you as possible, and at great expense.

    • Working Mom


      Making the decision for me to have my child go into a private school last year was hard, not only financially, but also with the amount of volunteering I have to do and scorn from parents who kids are in public schools.

      However, I know I have made the right decision my child is thriving and the teachers are so dedicated to the students. I can pick up the phone or email the teacher any time and they will talk to me. The volunteering has taught me that the school and parents can work together for the benefit of the children. And just as I say thank-you to a teacher they in turn appreciate and thank us for volunteering.

      Yes I have had to cut down on my household spending, no holiday trips and eat more Kraft dinners, but at the same time I don’t have to spend stupid amounts of money on trendy clothes as there is a uniform, the school instills good behavior and accountability on the children and when BCTF or the teachers act up – I know my child is not affected by this and I can still go to work and not look for funds to pay for a babysitter or loose wages and stay home.

      It is hard – but you have the peace of mind that your child is really learning how to read, write and do math, that they are being taught by teachers who love their profession and that the school works more like a community than a vanilla low grade institution.

    • boohoo

      Spend your money however you want.

      The vast majority of teachers are too busy trying to cope with overcrowded classrooms, shrinking resources and other issues to give two shits about what the BCTF is doing.

      You all act like teachers sit down every night and swear a blood oath to all things BCTF so they can go and indoctrinate kids. It’s ridiculous, completely inaccurate in the vast majority of teachers and I really hope it’s just the crazy that this blog brings out.

  • Working Mom


    You might think it is funny – but BCTF protects these teachers – who the heck protects the children while they are in the school. It also hurts the integrity of good teachers when they also know that some are in their school and they can not do anything about it because of BCTF. This is no laughing matter.

    I take it then you support having BCTF “protect” ALL teachers even at the sake of a child’s innocence?

    • eric

      Absolutely true and this is not a laughing matter.

    • boohoo

      “You might think it is funny” Nope.

      “who the heck protects the children while they are in the school.” The 99.9% of teachers who aren’t criminals.

      “I take it then you support having BCTF “protect” ALL teachers even at the sake of a child’s innocence?” Nope.

      Thanks for playing the assumption game though.

      What’s funny is this entire conversation that rapidly devolves to scare tactics, gross and wildly inaccurate speculation and generalization and straight up ignorance.

      • skippy

        Its quite ironic that you bemoan that this blog devolves to among other things inaccurate speculation, generalization and straight up ignorance when your previous post that I had commented on was not factual which you acknowledged. You also referred to illegally ripping up contracts and to the BCTF agreeing to a zero settlement for class size restrictions. My bet is you have no idea what was in the BCTF cba’s, the nature and content of past settlements and the Charter cases that lead up to where we are today with teacher’s collective bargaining.

        • boohoo

          Skippy, good you see you’re not willing to address my point but rather dwell on my error in dates, which I acknowledged.

          • skippy

            Well Boohoo, none of the facts you’ve asserted are correct. The BCTF did not make a deal for a zero in exchange for class size restrictions. I’m not sure of your source but unfortunately you’re misinformed. I was responding to your concern that the posters on this blog were ill informed when in fact you are ill informed. As far as your assertion that only one side was willing to negotiate, you are again incorrect. Both sides came to the table with very aggressive agendas. The fact that BCSPEA is not prepared to accept or agree to BCTF’s demands on class size and composition is a perfectly legitimate position. Both sides are fully entitled to say “no” and engage in hard bargaining. I suppose if you were correct there would be a BCLRB complaint/decision by the BCTF alleging that BCSPEA engaged in “surface” bargaining and had no intention of good faith bargaining and concluding a collective agreement. That has not happened and the BCTF has not been shy about trying to get through the courts or the BCLRB what they could not get at the bargaining table.

  • Eli

    @working mom Like I said, scorned and beloved…

    • Working Mom


      BCTF Scorned and Teachers Beloved.

  • jenables

    Hey, if what the demands teachers were asking for only encompassed class size, appropriate help with special needs and a promise of adequate money for textbooks, supplies, equipment, and even a hot lunch or breakfast program (as going hungry at school is a reality for many kids, which can cause additional problems for the teachers) – would any of you really have a problem with that? Can we agree that the direction education and the treatment of children in the last fifteen years makes a very different environment than what we had in school? Would you like to deal with thirty kids who all think they are super special and gifted because that’s what they have been told? Kids who don’t even know what it’s like to just pay because every free second is full of various activities? What if ten of those have autism, aspergers and adhd? (or again, maybe their parents want them to be special) Maybe, like that teacher on the island who went to the media in tears, you have some who sleep because it’s not safe for them to do so at home. Or you know don’t get food or guidance at home. She wanted to help them all but knew she couldn’t..because one person can only do so much. A third was special needs. She had two half days per week of help. She couldn’t give them all individual attention, feed them all, and felt guilty that the good, capable students weren’t getting the attention she felt they needed. Eight million more would have gone a long long way in her district. So when I say that money should go into education, that is what I mean. although I do think teachers are as entitled to a Cola as anyone else, how many people who aren’t govt employees actually receive this? addressing the most dire needs should come first. So strictly for conversation sake, if the demands were solely for the betterment of education, which includes class size and more staff or assistance with special needs, are we on board there? That is where we need to start. PS to max.. Convention center I don’t have a problem with. it’s the needing to spend 1.1 billion like it ain’t no thang, and the precedent it sets that I take issue with. Been in a hospital lately? A friend just had his first son, c section, bby general. She had to go back two days later..septicemia. that’s a whole other can of worms, but again, paying people crap wages to handle biohazardous waste does have a downside, which has probably cost more than it has saved. Not to mention, good jobs stimulate the local economy, which is very good for small business. totally off topic but I thought you should know where I stand. A billion is a lot of scratch..

  • jenables

    Oops that should say kids don’t know how to play, not pay. And working mom, the convention center comments address your response to me as well add max. If you can tell me why spending one billion dollars was necessary, I would be most grateful. I am not opposed to business, tourism, conventions or cruise
    ships, nor do I want that money going to contractual perks or diamond bctf grillz supplied by Halliburton.

  • Eli

    @jenables Well said. The issue here isn’t really the union at all – it’s the desire of the current government to get out of public services across the board.

    And it’s not just the BC government, it’s the feds as well. And it’s not a new thing.

    The cost of democracy is eternal vigilance.

  • @Bill:

    “Following your logic then, it would be ok for an employer to require employees to join a particular political party as a condition of employment as long as the employee had other employment opportunities if they did not want to join.”

    Not at all. Political parties are vastly different from unions and professional accrediting organizations such as the College of Surgeons, Bar Association, etc. Further, as a member of a union, one is free to run for the executive, bring motions from the floor, etc if one is unhappy with the direction and governance of the organization. That degree of input generally isn’t available to employees within a company. The price of democracy is participation in some fashion. If you want change, you have to work for it. Not surprisingly there aren’t many teachers willing to cut their own throats by backing regressive right to work-style initiatives.

    • Bill

      “Not surprisingly there aren’t many teachers willing to cut their own throats by backing regressive right to work-style initiatives.”

      Then why make membership mandatory if the vast majority of teachers would exercise their freedom to stay in the union? What would be the negative consequences of giving workers the freedom of choice?

  • Eli

    @Bill The union is a democratic body and mandatory membership is something teachers negotiated for collectively. The suggestion made by Carol and others that we simply abandon it appears to be willfully oblivious and conveniently ignorant.

    The negative consequence of “giving people the freedom of choice” is that the only strength derived from union membership is solidarity.

    • Max


      Perhaps the BCTF form of ‘democracy’ explains the voter apathy among the teachers.

      Over the years, it has been reported that a % of teachers vote to ‘strike’ or to some form of job action.

      And then after the fact the public learns that less than 50% of the total number of eligible voting teachers bothered to vote, so in acutallity a very small ‘majority’ becomes the squeaky wheel wanting the grease.

      So ‘solidarity’ can be skirted and freedom of choice exercised by not showing up. But I guess that is lost on the BCTF and those that believe the union holds full solidarity within their ranks. Seems to me like there are some broken coggs.

    • Bill

      Nice bit of rationalizing to justify taking away individual freedoms by pretending it is just part of a democratic process. Mind you, it should not come as a surprise since teachers rationize hurting students by withdrawing from extracurricular activities by blaming the government which is a bit like the kidnapper who had no choice but to kill the hostage since the ransom wasn’t paid.

      • Well, of course taking away individual freedoms to suit the will of the collective is the absolute essence of the democratic process. We vote on issues and respect the will of the majority. Disagreeing with the outcome doesn’t give you the right to disregard it. I guess some people pay lip service to democracy, but aren’t keen to see it in action.

        Regarding extracurricular activities, I know of no other occupation where volunteering your time to provide your employer/client’s (aka parents) children with recreational activities outside of your working hours is considered part and parcel of your employment. This gracious act of volunteerism by teachers now gets used as a blunt instrument against them, as though an act of charity and generosity should be construed as binding agreement to continue with that activity regardless of the situation.

        • Bill

          When people point out that teachers have a pretty good deal in working from 9:00 to 3:00 with two months off in the summer, not to mention spring break and other stat holidays, teachers are quick to point out that they work all those extra hours on extra curricular activities.

          Can’t have it both ways, Chris. Either its part of the job to justify a pretty good compensation package or its not and teachers are over paid for what they are required to do.

          • My understanding Bill is that ‘all those extra hours’ is also stuff like marking papers, lesson preparation, etc. However, if, for argument’s sake you are correct, then extra-curricular stuff would fall even more squarely within the work-to-rule sphere.

            Obviously by your comments you simply aren’t a fan of organized labour in general. Any job action would probably rub you the wrong way.

      • Bill:

        If you have time to post at 3:18pm and are keen to see kids get after-school activities, maybe behind your computer is the wrong place to be in mid-afternoon if this situation has you feeling as though the kids are getting screwed? 🙂


  • Eli

    @ Max “So ‘solidarity’ can be skirted and freedom of choice exercised by not showing up. But I guess that is lost on the BCTF and those that believe the union holds full solidarity within their ranks. Seems to me like there are some broken cogs.”

    To not show up at the polls is to give up ones right to freedom of choice. Democracy comes with responsibility.

    Few people believe that there is full solidarity on any issue within the ranks. Democracy doesn’t ever work that way.

    I believe the turnout at the last few polls has been closer to 70%. By comparison, CBC reports that turnout at civic elections around here has varied from 32% to 52% over the last decade.

  • Eli

    To calrify, I’m talking about polls related to job action over the last year.

    In the most recent vote, for example, 29 471 teachers voted out of a total of 41 000. That’s 72%, a healthy quorem by any definition, and well above the 32% to 52% per cent that turn out for civic elections.

    The argument here, that the BCTF is tyrannical and victimizes its members, is codswallop.

  • Max

    And the BCTF/Union calls the Government bullies….

    Some Burnaby teachers may face punishment
    Sean Leslie | Email news tips to Sean

    Education Minister George Abbott is taking issue with a union notice sent to teachers in Burnaby that warns of possible punishment if they take part in extra-curricular activities.

    The email from the Burnaby Teachers Association executive committee says that the BCTF members’ guide allows for sanctions against members “who act in opposition to collective action” such as the union’s ban on extra-curricular and voluntary activities.

    Abbott says that’s unfortunate, and the whole business of a union, or association telling people what they can do in their own time is misguided and unfortunate.

    The email does not spell out what sanctions might be applied against teachers who violate the ban

    • Paul H

      That is one of their main problems; they almost purposely destroy any goodwill parents want to give them.

      There is only one way to educate – the BCTF way
      There is only one way to bargain – the BCTF way
      There is only one way for job action – the BCTF way

      @Eli – although 72% voted, I don’t think the average teacher is at all supportive of the current job action – at least the teachers in my family are not. As someone said above, all they really want is say in class size and comp, adequate school supplies and help with special needs kids. Even they realize that the position that the BCTF has taken at the table with respect to demands have alienated those that would have otherwise been ardent supporters.

      As for clarity, BCTF doesnt equal rank and file teacher in my mind. At least not the ones related to me.

    • Bill

      But Max, the BCTF is a democratically run organization and as Eli says ” The negative consequence of “giving people the freedom of choice” is that the only strength derived from union membership is solidarity.”

      And if the teachers who have a spine (or at least a conscience) don’t like it they can always take Chris Keam’s advice and open their own school or find a job in a private school.

  • Eli

    @paul h I agree with you that many teachers are torn over this and have been all year. It has been a terrible year.

    Only in the strictest dictatorships do we find the appearance of 100% approval from the rank and file.

    The BCTF is made up of locals and locals are made up of schools and their reps and we all talk freely. Being a relatively small democracy, motions can go from the staff room to the AGM without much difficulty.

    The BCTF represents teachers in the political arena, and politics are ugly; therefore, the BCTF is ugly. I don’t think that’s actually much of a stretch.

    But “the goodwill parents give them”? Keeping in mind that the majority of the 41000 teachers in this province are parents and grandparents, I’m having trouble seeing exactly where you’re coming from with that one.


    That’s $500 a day ON TOP of the wages I would already be giving up were I to go on strike. Democracy indeed.

    Any letter on file from the BCTF pales in comparison.

    The bottom line is this: if the government wants out of the business of public service, they are going to have to get into the business of union busting. Canadians in general are not fans of union busting.

    When we are stuck with an NDP government next year and you aren’t sure why you can point your finger at this government’s foray into union busting with public employees and say “There. That’s it”.

    • Paul H

      “But “the goodwill parents give them”? Keeping in mind that the majority of the 41000 teachers in this province are parents and grandparents, I’m having trouble seeing exactly where you’re coming from with that one.”

      @ Eli – I understand that, I was referring to the “non-teacher” parents.

      As a parent, your default approach to your kid’s teacher will be support. Not saying it is right or wrong, but teachers don’t really need to “earn” that support it is readily and freely given by most parents (aka goodwill). What is happening now is eroding that support or goodwill. The parents in our neighborhood are having trouble understanding how some of the more ridiculous demands at the bargaining table can really be considered “in the best interest of the kids”. The current job action only further exacerbates that. I heard one teacher say, after cancelling a trip the kids had been working for all year was that kids need to learn to deal with disappointment. I was shocked that she wanted to turn the cancellation into a “teaching moment”. My response to her was, you gave your word at the beginning of the year the trip would be immune from the ongoing job action and that fund raising by parents was done on that premise. So, I asked if the teaching moment was more that kids don’t need to mean what they say? She had no answer.

      • Bill

        Remember how the teachers keep bringing up how the government tore up their contract? Well isn’t the teachers breaking a commitment to follow through on an activity the same as tearing up a contract with their students and their parents?

  • gman

    I wonder how many teachers have their own kids enrolled in private schools? Just asking.

  • boohoo


    “I suppose if you were correct there would be a BCLRB complaint/decision by the BCTF alleging that BCSPEA engaged in “surface” bargaining and had no intention of good faith bargaining and concluding a collective agreement.”

    You mean like how they have had to go to court in the past to undo illegal actions by the government?

    I suppose you can colour me skeptical in this case.

  • Higgins

    Ha. I think we’ll be taking about BCTF and the teacher’s strike for a long time… summer holiday is almost here, then is the accomodation back to “work” period, than oops, the winter break… See you on this topic in 2013! 🙂

  • Carol Gibson

    I am encouraged by the animated conversation in response to this recent post. I cannot comment on all posts, but there are a few comments I will add.

    First, sincere thanks to “Working Mom” who eloquently expresses views I have heard from many parents.Some of these parents are investigating options and making a choice to enroll their children in independent schools.

    The common assumption is that “only the wealthy” choose this option. In my experience, this is not the accurate.

    Many families are committed to finding the best educational opportunities for their children. They explore all options, make the best choices possible and, like “Working Mom” they may do so by making financial adjustments.

    Sometimes the best choice for a child is the neighborhood public school, sometimes it is not. As a society, we are fortunate to have the range of choices we have in the public and the independent school systems.

    Second, thank you to Dr. Richard Unger for a post addressed directly to me. Conversations with teachers over the years have assisted me to identify a number of issues many of which motivated the original post.

    Teachers in classrooms focus on children, on the organization and management of classroom spaces, on individual learning needs, on learning resources available and on a “community” – their school.

    On a day to day basis, many trust that their union will act in their best interests. It is primarily during labor action that questions begin to arise.

    The recent letters of sanction being sent by the BCTF to individual teachers and to many within Burnaby District which relate to teachers use of personal time to volunteer to work with children may provide “a tipping point”.

    In the number of organizations and agencies in which I have been employed or have supervised employees, I know of no situation in which an employer or a union would or could assert authority in relation to volunteer activity by employees or members. This would have been seen to infringe the right, as an individual, to use personal time freely.

    As with other professionals, an area in which the public does have an interest in how teachers spend their free time is if the “free time” is spent in activity that is contrary to the standards expected by the profession or is illegal. This “public interest” is generally supported in case law.

    Third, there are two issues in Eli’s posts to which I will respond: 1) the myth that government is motivated to destroy public service – public education or publicly supported medical care specifically; and 2) the number of teachers in the province as well as the calculated proportion of those who vote.

    1) An inability to give public sector unions everything they ask for during bargaining does not equate to a Machiavellian plot to privatize everything.

    This myth has been perpetuated and re-stated in the media so many times that it has become believable to many.

    In Canada, we have a public education system and a public medical care system that motivates people from around the globe to seek opportunity for their families and children as citizens in Canada.

    Government at all levels is challenged to continue to provide services without the costs consuming an ever increasing percentage of the GDP. Salaries and benefit packages for employees within these public sector services represent between 85% and 95% of the cost.

    2) What is the accurate and reliable number of public school teachers – voting members of the BCTF?

    The BCTF leadership asserts in all public announcements that there are “41,000 teachers”. These presumably are public school teachers and members of the BCTF.

    Ministry data for 2010-11 indicates that there are about 33,490 teachers. This figure excludes administrators, principals and vice-principals as well as directors of instruction all of whom have authority to supervise teachers and therefore are not members of the BCTF. The Ministry also acknowledges there may be minimal error resulting from double-counting of TOC’s registered in multiple school districts.

    The BCTF Financial Statements include reference to the Ed May Memorial Fund. Note # 4 related to the BCTF Audited Financial Statements indicates that: “$1 from each member’s union fee is allocated to this Memorial Fund” to support activities that are related to Social Justice initiatives.

    The amount in the budget allocated to the Ed May Memorial Fund is $31,000. This would suggest that there are 31,000, not 41,000 fee paying members of the BCTF.

    The discrepancy in number from BCTF sources is 10,000. The discrepancy in the comparison of BCTF publicly released figures and those of the Ministry is 7510.

    The BCTF discrepancy in number is critical. Number of members determines who and how many cast votes on critical issues such as withdrawal of services. The BCTF publicly announced figure is 10,000 more than the information in the Audited Financial Statements would suggest.

    There may be a very reasonable explanation for this discrepancy, but if it affects the number who vote on critical issues such as strike action or withdrawal of services, both the public and the membership may have a legitimate concern.

    • Richard Unger

      Thank You, Carol!

      Appreciated your words.

      Richard Unger MD (Ret)

  • katrina ranson

    I was totally appalled when i heard on the news that the BCTF were sending letters to teachers about Volunteering and that sanctions may be taken
    against those that chose to volunteer their non work time to coach the teams,and various other activities.

    if i am correct,volunteering is just that done in a persons free time and is not paid work.

    BCTF say in their ads they are taking action for the children.
    I have read what their demands on the BCPSEA website ate and i can not see anything that would benefit our children