Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Bill 22 Q&A

Some interesting debate occurs among union members, some of it subject to my response. I’m posting a selection of my responses here as they extend the thinking in my my earlier post on Bill 22.
Statement: We only have one option - illegal job action until Bill 22 is defeated and a just contract is negotiated.  
Response: Disagree - there are many options. Extended illegal job action is not likely to convince the Liberals to repeal legislation, and would bankrupt the union and many of its members within days. Working to contract would be an option.  Court challenges would be an option. Passive resistance in the workplace would be an option. Suggesting system-wide changes that could give us a raise under net-zero would be an option. Voting for someone other than BCLiberals in the next election would be an option. Pressuring that “someone else” would introduce corrective legislation would be an option. We could also ask the BCTF to address (at least) three areas of concern to BCPSEA (teacher evaluation, direction on pro-d, and selection based on suitability) with compromise positions. I disagree with BCPSEA's bargaining position (or "contract insistence"), but they have definitely found some weak spots in our profession. We do an erratic job self-regulating in these areas, and so it is logical that they wish to fill the vacuum by giving more control to management. We often complain about how unqualified and unimaginative our administration are in providing educational leadership, but we struggle to provide it for ourselves. While I would consider an illegal strike for other reasons (like the right to bargain, the conditions of mediation, and a better formula for composition issues), I wouldn't do it to defend our current approach to self-regulation. This is not quite the same as loss to professional autonomy (which is a feature of Bill 22), this is about accountability for reasonable expectations.
Statement: All other tacts [sic] will lead to the destruction of our union, our profession, and one of the best education systems in the world.
Response: The union and profession no doubt faces a shift in its role if the Bill passes, but "destruction" is hyperbolical. The problems that exist in our education system will still remain regardless of Bill 22, as will much of the excellence. Nonetheless, I will support my union leadership's decisions as to what happens next. I have certainly appreciated our local union leadership's insight into Bill 22 and their proficient organization of Phase 1 and the current Phase 2 of our job action.
Statement: We will gain respect for ourselves and from the people of our province. Canadians love and respect the courageous, not whining victims.
Response: There is often something in terms of historical respect to be gained from civil disobedience, but I think the part of the public that has kids in school will not think us courageous, but rather whiners who are causing them daycare hassles. The reason we are an essential service is that we warehouse kids during working hours. This is one of the reasons why the parts of the BCED plan that call for students to escape "brick-and-mortar" schools will be a tough sell with parents.
Statement: The actions you propose [alternatives to illegal job action] will not change Bill 22.
Response: I agree. I believe Bill 22 will pass regardless of what we do over the next two weeks.  I think the chance of Bill 22 being rescinded in the current session are slim. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try and do something about it, but there must also be a plan for what we do after it passes. I think that's why so many letters to trustees and union statements are directed towards the mediation constraints. Perhaps enough pressure would convince Abbott to amend Bill 22 on mediation.  
This reminds me of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Before it got really bad, the "beetle boss" Bob Clarke told the MoF, industry, and the public that we should start planning for "life after pine" in B.C. Many in the MoF thought it was premature, that the epidemic could be stayed, but Bob suggested the focus on should be on what wood supply, markets, and silviculture should look like after the Central Interior loses 75-80% of it's lodgepole pine. He then quit because his work in "prevention" was done -- all this before the epidemic had even hit full swing.  
I'm not sure if we've reached the tipping point for the potential impacts of Bill 22, but I do believe we should focus our efforts on how our teaching practices, messages to parents, communication with administration, approach to the BCED plan, contributions to school culture, etc. need to change. Personally, I would like to see more self-sufficiency and interdependence in these areas, less dependence on the management hierarchy to define who we are in our vocation. I realize this sounds ironic given that Bill 22 gives more rights to management, but I'm talking more about the "self" who teaches rather than the job that is laid out for me by SD57 or the Min of Ed. The struggle to reconcile those modalities is, for me, an important place to dwell. Midst Bill 22 and what we all be experiencing a year from now is still largely up to us to define and explore (as individuals, school groups, networks, and a union), so I do think present efforts to reject, protest, frame, reshape or limit Bill 22 are not wasted -- this is an important part of carving out that space. Perhaps the collective agreement pine beetles can still be stopped or their impact mitigated. This may require both the immediate actions that you and others are contemplating, and the other options that are available (like court challenges) and conduct more up my alley (like institutional iconoclasm and Neil Postman-styled subversive commentary).
Statement: What do you mean when you say "working to contract?"
Response: I've attempted working to contract for a few years, trying to replace time put in for admin and extracurricular with time put in for self, family, friends, colleagues, professional & staff development, and being an activist stakeholder in public education. The students get just about the right amount of time from me -- classtime, occasionally help at lunch or after school, digital support ("blended learning"), supervision (if I remember), marking and formal/informal prep time. That fills at least 45 hours a week and is mostly what I'm paid for, so if my employer wants more of that they can pay for it. I can be more relaxed about working to contract than others though; I have not coached since our work-to-rule in 2002, or put the hours of after school time into students like others do with comprehensive programs like film & drama.

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