There was a different air hanging over the first day of school Tuesday. Though it was a brilliant September morning in Nelson, the black cloud of a labour dispute between the government and the teachers’ union took a bit of the shine off what is supposed to be an exciting day for all involved.
In the first couple days of class, the “teach only job action” being directed by the BC Teachers’ Federation likely went unnoticed by the large majority of students. The first week of school is generally driven by enthusiasm for new classmates, catching up with old friends and the excitement of the education adventure ahead. The stress administrators face because of phase one of this dispute was likely not the subject of first-week dinnertime conversations.
With both sides still far apart, the stress level will only rise and the cracks will soon start to become apparent to students.
Though the teachers’ union is trying to keep the kids out of it, their involvement is inevitable. The longer this goes on, students will be impacted. Those most at risk are not the brightest kids — they can handle this bump — it’s those children that need extra help that might end up being the biggest victims.
So who’s to blame? We’re certainly not going to wade into the game of pointing fingers; both sides do that well enough. And when it comes to labour disputes at this level, there is no easy answers.
What we do know is when labour tangles hit this pitch, you need to be careful when sifting through the positions put forth by all sides. The truth is usually not what one side will have you believe.
This fight was not unexpected. We have a government and union leadership unwilling to budge. Raising the stakes had to come; we can only hope resolve is in the near future so the impact to kids is softened.