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Conflict between teachers and their provincial government is far from over

Photo by Brad Perkins, CC

Teachers’ strikes are the norm for those who attend public school in British Columbia.

For many years, school teachers have been putting pressure on the provincial government to sign a fair deal. Since 1987, the teachers’ union and the B.C. government have been so far apart on issues such as compensation, wages, and classroom sizes that pickets and walkouts have become a regular occurrence for students attending public school.

Even though the union and the government have signed a tentative deal, I doubt it’ll result in peace between these two parties for very long.

I went to public school in Richmond, B.C., a suburb of Vancouver, and graduated from high school in 2012. Throughout this time, tension between the government and the teachers is so intense that it jeopardized some events during my graduating year. The teachers had to endure so many cutbacks that it began to weaken our after-school programs. My rugby team’s season was almost cancelled. If it weren’t for some teachers who stepped up and other volunteers that enlisted their services, our season would have been over before it started.

While I could understand what was going on, since I come from a family where one parent was a teacher, many other students were unsure what to think about the latest strike. Some believed it was unfair that they were being affected by these strikes and felt that the two sides should have come to an agreement a lot sooner. Others would say the teachers were simply being greedy and they should have just taken whatever the government was giving them. Another party would claim it was the government’s fault for all of these strikes, and that the teachers should still continue fighting for a fairer deal.

With this kind of divisive rhetoric still being espoused, I can only imagine the temporary deal will be shattered at some point in the near future.

I did not see the teachers as being greedy.What I saw was a union that was fighting for something they had been promised years ago. I appreciated what the teachers did for me when I was in school, both in and out the classroom. I could understand the frustration the teachers had toward the government. So when teachers began to take action this summer, I sided with them.

In response, the government tried to diminish teachers in the public eye. According to them, the teachers were the ones to blame for students being out of the classroom. In reality it was caused by an irresponsible government that should be held accountable for initiating one of the longest ongoing labour disputes in B.C. history.

The ones who are most affected are still the students. British Columbian students have been caught in this feud for more than two decades. And although they’re finally back in their classrooms this week, they still have to endure a drastically shortened school year with no hope of making up for lost instructional time.

The tension between the teachers’ unions and the provincial government needs to subside so we can get back to what’s really important: educating the youth of our nation. I doubt this will happen. It’s more likely that in a couple of short years, they’ll be right back where they started.