Bargaining lunacy deserves a dunce cap

If you are reading this column, chances are good that you are not strolling the beaches of Varadero enjoying a Cuban spring break

If you are reading this column, chances are good that you are not strolling the beaches of Varadero enjoying a Cuban spring break.

That is probably a good thing. You would just be tripping over any number of B.C. teachers enjoying yet another well-deserved escape from their impossibly difficult jobs in the province’s classrooms.

Back home, a skeleton crew at the B.C. Teacher’s Federation is encouraging individual teachers to implement a total ban on participation in extra-curricular school activities. Many teachers — like thousands of other British Columbians from many walks of life — love to volunteer a little time to enrich the lives of young people.

However, as far as the BCTF is concerned, volunteerism on the part of teachers is a bargaining tool. What nonsense.

This is the same BCTF that is also sneering at Education Minister George Abbott’s reasonable expectation that teachers will issue report cards just as soon as Bill 22, the cooling off legislation, becomes law this week.

Every time the teachers’ contract cycle comes full term and the BCTF constipates the process with unrealistic demands, I am reminded that this is a profession guided by a union-fostered ethic of entitlement.

There are not enough crying towels in circulation to absorb the crocodile tears shed by these educators as they lament the hardships that stand between them and their $60,000 to $80,000 stipends.

Let’s do this by the numbers.

The School Act states that schools will be in session for 193 days a year with 186 days of instruction. Over that period a typical teacher will spend about 1,200 hours at work in the classroom. Add another seven days for professional development and report card preparation and you have a work year of approximately 1,270 hours.

For this, the average teacher earns about $70,000. The regular work year for the rest of the merely mortal — with two weeks holiday — is 1,900 hours.

While the income of the average B.C. family has grown by less than one per cent over the past four tough years, the BCTF would have you believe its members are starving.

In fact, they signed a generous collective agreement in 2006 that gave them average wage increases of 2.5 per cent over five years.

Add in their benefits and their total compensation increased by more than 15 per cent in the contract package. As well, every Tom, Dick and Harriet received a $4,000 signing bonus.

This time around, the BCTF came to the table with demands that would choke a gift horse, including: 26 weeks of paid leave to care for someone . . . anyone; a year’s bonus pay for retiring veterans; two weeks paid leave upon the death of a friend . . . any friend; five paid days a year for professional activities; two sick days a month that can be saved up like tokens you can redeem for Cuba Libres at the beach bar; and, of course, enough fresh money to make our teachers the best paid in the nation.

In the face of this bargaining lunacy, our government deserves credit for sticking to a frugal net zero mandate dictated by fragile provincial revenues.

Interestingly, net zero is exactly the same bottom line the BCTF has adopted in stalled negotiations with 140 of its own unionized workers. I think there is a goose and gander analogy in there somewhere. M

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