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Baldrey Muffs Test on Teacher Strike

Global TV reporter needs schooling on the issues.

By John Malcolmson 27 Sep 2005 | TheTyee.ca

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BCTV legislative reporter Keith Baldrey has set himself up as an expert commentator on teacher negotiations. His "Negotiations won't solve teacher woes" circulated in the NOW papers over the weekend of September 24 and offers his latest view on the current dispute. Issues raised in this article touch directly on the question of public school funding support. But Baldrey's analysis is deeply flawed. Indeed, his article is a tangle of factual inaccuracies, contradictory assertions and suspect reasoning. Take a look.

Teachers are wrong he argues to press for improved working conditions. Yet four paragraphs latter he says teachers should campaign to put more money into schools for libraries and special education because that "would have strong public support." What is the difference? Why is one bad and the other OK?

The BCTF, he argues, is sticking to a negotiating position that is "out of touch with political reality." The last time this happened, we are told, teachers tabled big wage demands in the wake of 9/11. But what do salary demands in BC have to do with World Trade Centre attacks? Unfortunately, Baldrey sees the connection as so self-evident, he declines to elucidate the point.

More clangers

Baldrey argues that the whole bargaining structure is flawed because the employer's group has no incentive to bargain a settlement. If that is the case and it likely is, which reality are teachers out of touch with by pressing for improved working conditions? Baldrey says the NDP gave teachers powers to negotiate "non-wage issues such as staffing levels and class sizes." While all journalists can occasionally be forgiven the sin of sloppy research, this clanger shouldn't go unmentioned. In fact, teachers were "given" expanded bargaining rights leading to contract class size provisions in the late 1980s under the watch of Bill Vander Zalm and the Socreds, some of whom now sit in Gordon Campbell's cabinet.

In looking at the current impasse, a better case can be made for the provincial government purposefully constructing a non-workable negotiating structure, one incapable of yielding any purposeful outcomes for teachers. Why do this? The answers are largely financial and budget-related. It saves money. It makes a freeze on public education spending easier. It allows Victoria to give out more tax cuts. And to spend money in other areas that have been given higher political priority. (See yesterday's Tyee article.)

In the 1980s, the late Vancouver musician Long John Baldrey released a comeback album titled Baldrey's Out! His present-day journalistic namesake also seems to be out - of touch with fact and logic.

John Malcolmson is a consulting sociologist doing research and evaluation in the fields of public education and education finance, literacy, labour relations, justice issues and social policy. He publishes the digital newsletter Finance Watch, where a version of this appeared. To subscribe, email financewatch@shaw.ca.  [Tyee]

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