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Surprise! Tyee readers strongly support teacher strikes

This week, The Tyee asked readers whether they support the rotating strikes begun by the B.C. Teachers' Federation on Monday.

Striking teachers closed schools throughout the province for one day each in protest of what they see as the government's unwillingness to fairly negotiate a new contract. Strikes are expected to continue next week.

More than 1,400 responses to the poll had been been recorded by Friday morning, with 89 per cent of respondents answering "yes." In comments, several key issues came up repeatedly on both sides of the debate.

This was especially true of the "who's looking out for the kids," argument, which was cited frequently by both the majority and the 11 per cent who said they opposed the strike:

"I am 100% confident that the teachers, not the government, are the ones who are making the needs of the students the priority."

"It would be nice if teachers would for once put the kids fist. Goodness they are well paid, have long holidays, good pensions, yet still they continually complain."

"Teachers have been bullied by this nasty Liberal government for the past 13 years. They work hard, and care for their students, and are never bargained with in good faith."

The question of "bargaining in good faith" also came up repeatedly, mostly in the context of the government not doing so:

"It's high time that the government came to the table with sensible, fair suggestions.They are not bargaining in good faith, they are bullying."

"The government was found guilty of bad faith negotiations and violating the highest laws in the land, the Charter of Rights, twice. If that isn't appalling, I don't know what is! The education system in B.C. has been robbed of hundreds of millions since this illegal action took place in 2002."

On the other side, many respondents accused the union of "greed:"

"It is the fastest way for teachers' greed to be exposed. They should sacrifice any wage / benefit increase whatsoever so that money can be spent to hire more special needs support staff."

Of course, the BCTF argues that such "support staff" is needed, and should be included in a new collective bargaining agreement along with stipulated class sizes and compositions. Many of their supporters commented favourably on this demand:

"… they are petitioning for important things: class size and wages. For the most part, teachers are very hard working professionals who get a lot of bad press. I have nothing but admiration for classroom teachers. They have my support."

"Teachers have been without a contract for too long. Class sizes have increased and more teacher time is taken for children with special needs. Our kids deserve better and our teachers deserve better."

Other respondents personalized their comments, including one person with special educational needs:

"teachers made my time in school more enjoyable and i am learning disabled there werent any special teachers but some of the every day teachers went out of their way to help me Other teachers also worked hard to made their classes more enjoyable i am puzzled as to how there could be confusion on this subject teachers work hard, care about their students, work unpayed times for checking papers and planing the school courses and only get payed for 10 months our so called leaders in the government make alot more money, are payed for 12 months and has shown repeatedly that they dont care and not even a little bit."

For many, the question provoked feelings of ambivalence and resignation:

"They must be the lesser evil compared to the government of B.C., at least that's what I want to believe."

"Premier photo-op wants a strike, so give it to them. A pox on both their houses. The only losers are the students, but in B.C. no one gives a damn about them."

And at least one person based their "yes" response on practical, non-political considerations:

"I could take my grandson fishing for the first time in years."

The Tyee Poll is not a scientific poll, but rather is intended to simply get the pulse of Tyee readers and the wider community. This week's poll will remain open through the end of the day on Sunday.

Ian Holliday is completing a practicum at The Tyee and is the website's resident poll analyst. Follow him on Twitter @Ian_Holliday.

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