Thursday, February 13, 2014

Full Text of the Peter Fassbender letter to BC Teachers

I am posting this because I could not see a copy elsewhere online.

From: Education Minister Peter Fassbender >
Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 3:29 PM
Subject: A message from Education Minister Peter Fassbender
To British Columbia Teachers,

From the outset, I want to say how much I appreciate the work you and your colleagues do every day to ensure students are learning successfully in classrooms across the province. Teaching can be a challenging profession, and we are fortunate to have such dedicated people working on behalf of our province.

It is fair to say the relationship between the BCTF and the provincial government has been strained and marked by periods of strife for well over 40 years. In spite of this, together we’ve managed to build one of the best education systems in the world.

I can only imagine what we could achieve together from a position of long-term labour stability. As Minister of Education, that remains my objective. But I don’t expect things to improve overnight.

We share many goals and aspirations but we often differ on the solutions. So finding common ground will take dialogue and understanding. To that end, in a series of emails over the coming weeks, I want to take the opportunity to lay out the issues and the challenges that we face.

I don’t expect to win hearts and minds, I just want to do what I can to explain government’s perspective.

That starts with our perspective on how we got to where we are today.

Following the acrimonious and strike-laden local bargaining of the 1980s, B.C. moved the K-12 sector to provincial bargaining in the mid-1990s. Through several years at the bargaining table, elected school trustees consistently resisted efforts to entrench any local teacher-student ratios and formulas into the provincial contract. To this day, no other province faces these types of restrictions on school organization.

In 1998, having failed to convince trustees through negotiations, the BCTF left the bargaining table and struck a deal with the government of the day who then imposed the disputed provisions (and more) on school boards through legislation

In 2002, a new government, at the encouragement of elected trustees, chose to remove these provisions the same way they were put in – through legislation.

Fast forward to 2011, the BC Supreme Court ruled that government had not followed a proper process in with the BCTF in removing those sections. Government accepted that decision and spent the following year in consultation with the BCTF attempting to fix the problem.

But last week, the court ruled that the government’s efforts fell short. What is most disappointing for me is the judge’s characterization that government sought to provoke a strike. On that point we have a fundamental disagreement.

You may recall in 2012, facing BCTF’s decision to engage in a full strike, government imposed a 90-day cooling off period and appointed Dr. Charles Jago as a mediator, who then helped the parties to reach a negotiated agreement.

In the midst of a very protracted and difficult bargaining dispute, our actions were to de-escalate and seek a negotiated solution. For me, to call this action provocative is just wrong. And while I appreciate the decision to appeal does not bring the parties any closer, I assure you that government’s preferred solution is to find solutions at the bargaining table.

In my next email, I intend to expand on government’s perspective on managing class size and composition, which is both at the heart of the current legal dispute as well as the subject of current contract negotiations. That will be followed by further emails intended to provide you with as much information as possible on other issues at hand, the future of learning, and the implications of different options and solutions.

B.C.’s teachers are talented and dedicated professionals who are passionate about our world-class education system and the future of learning. These are critical times in education; much is at stake for our students, parents, communities, support workers and of course for you as teachers. The choices we make over the next number of months will conceivably shape education in British Columbia for the next several decades.

Peter Fassbender
Minister of Education
My thoughts and questions on this:

  • Did this only go to BCTF members or did it go to all teachers in BC?
  • This email went out a week ago, does the minister still insist that the government did not try to get a strike?
  • There is no mention in this email when the court ruling will be implemented, as a good faith he could have at least said how and when they would implement the court ruling
  • Does the Peter Fassbender honestly think this letter would improve relations with the BCTF?  I can not understand what he is trying to achieve with this email he sent.  I see nothing that is conciliatory, or humble or apologetic from the government here. Is the goal to make BCTF members foam at the mouth and rant and rave? 
  • He says the government is appealing but makes no mention of what error in law the judge made in 2014 when this was essentially the same decision as in 2011 which the government did not appeal.
  • I really wonder what the government goal is with the teachers, it seems pointlessly confrontational

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