EDITORIAL: Negotiations merry-go-round

Parents, students look to teachers and province to just get it done

Driving or walking past Sooke Teachers Association members picketing in front of West Shore schools, a number of emotions may arise.

One might feel frustration that the dispute has gone on this long and only now are the two sides restarting negotiations (Aug. 8 to be exact). Or one may feel sorry for teachers for whom strike pay is non-existent and a relaxing summer has evaporated. Then there’s those who begrudge teachers for asking not just for help in the classroom, but more money to boot.

It seems both sides in this never-ending dispute have been prone to getting their backs up whenever criticism is leveled at them.

That’s only natural, we suppose, but at what point do those people who are affected by this dispute throw up our hands and say, enough? Maybe many of us have already.

That said, there is hope that this next round of negotiations will produce an agreement. It won’t be perfect and both sides have to accept that. Respectful bargaining is about compromise and the teachers and province must be willing to do that, maybe to the point of cutting their losses for the sake of moving forward.

The government, however, as in previous contract disputes with the B.C. Teachers Federation, has the upper financial hand here. Not only does it have far more ability to outlast teachers who aren’t getting paid – think about how much money is being saved – the recent announcement that families will receive $40 per day for every child 12 or under is a sign the province is gearing up for an extended strike.

Even school support staff are getting paid regardless if they refuse to cross a picket line – a point CUPE negotiated for its members.That seems like someone pouring salt in the teachers’ wounds.

Fairness and reasonableness in any disagreement, be it a labour negotiation or an angry divorce, is whatever each party perceives it to be. We hope both sides can take a deep breath, put their best offers forward and put this sorry summer behind them.

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