EDITORIAL: Contract talks need realism

Teachers, province off to rocky start in latest round of negotiations.

Unemployment in Nanaimo reached 16 per cent last month and workers from all industries continue to feel the pinch of the world’s faltering economy.

It’s no surprise that the release of initial contract demands from B.C.’s teachers were met with disdain and anger earlier this year.

In bargaining between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the organization which represents the provincial government in contract talks, teachers’ opening demands included smaller class sizes, increased wages and improved benefits, such as more time off.

Rather than sitting at the bargaining table to hammer out common ground between the two sides, representatives took a seven-week summer break, increasing the pressure and shortening the time available to reach an agreement before students head back to class next month.

It’s particularly galling for teachers to ask for higher wages as the world economy is on the brink of recession, taxpayers are losing their jobs or facing wage reductions and unemployment is sky-high. It is, to put it bluntly, offensive and unrealistic.

B.C.’s education system is chronically underfunded, but increasing the wages of teachers will do nothing for students in over-crowded classrooms working with meagre supplies.

On the other hand, Premier Christy Clark’s Families First campaign has shown little in the way of improving learning conditions for students.

Putting resources where they benefits students most – the classroom – would go a long way to proving her campaign promises were more than empty rhetoric.