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B.C. Teachers' Strike Was About Values, Not Economics

09/17/2014 03:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:55 EDT
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So, I don't love the tentative deal between the BCTF (B.C. Teachers' Federation) and BCPSEA (B.C. Public School Employers' Association).

But I don't hate it either.

Which means that it's probably about as fair as it's going to get. Because wishing that it was better while feeling like it could have been worse? That's what compromise is.

Now, do I feel as though both sides compromised equally on this contract? No. I do feel like the teachers gave up more. But as much as I'd like a salary increase that actually kept up with the rate of inflation, and the budget to fund some firm way of handling class size and composition, this whole strike wasn't about economics.

At its core, this strike was about ideology -- the ideas and concepts that are valued. BCTF teachers believe in public education. And, through this job action, it's come out that a whole lot of the public does too.

And that support can't be written into a collective agreement.

So the teachers may have lost on the financial side with this tentative contract. But this fight isn't over. This contract doesn't end the dispute between the teachers and the BC Liberals. In fact, it will be returning to the public eye very soon when the government's appeal of their second court loss is heard next month.

And because of this strike, more people will be paying attention. More people will understand what's at stake. More people will tune in when they hear the words "class size and composition."

More people will care.

So, if this tentative agreement is accepted, and I get to go back to work, and students ask me what was gained from this strike, I'll be able to answer them.

Because we gained modest funding increases to hire more teachers.

We gained the first salary adjustments since I entered this profession.

We secured better treatment for the thousands of teachers who spend years working on call.

We stood up to a government who was trying to get around the law.

We didn't compromise our rights as Canadians.

We educated the public about the current state of our schools.

We brought our government's treatment of its citizens to the forefront.

We awoke the politically apathetic.

And people from all cultures, backgrounds, and stages of life stood with teachers in support of education.

So, no, I'm not in love with the negotiated contract. But this dispute isn't over.

The teachers are going back to court next month. But we're not going alone. Because of this strike, many of you are going with us. You're informed. You're involved. And you're appreciated.

While this contract isn't the thing of my dreams, the public support we've been experiencing this past few weeks is. And teachers' job action wasn't about the money in this one contract. It was about raising awareness. It was about opening minds and enlightening citizens.

So, I'll be voting to accept this contract. Not because I think it's ideal or truly meets anybody's needs, but because it puts us -- teachers and students -- in a better position that we found ourselves last June.

Because this isn't a dispute over economics. It's a dispute over values. And the BC Liberals are as committed to not compromising their values as the teachers are.

So a negotiated settlement that doesn't make anyone truly happy? It's an improvement.

But a third court victory, backed by countless newly informed members of the community? That's where real progress will be made.

I hope.

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