The Horror Of Government Employee Unions–Part 34

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    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

    Wherein we see the dangers of public unions. They blather on about the children, but their purpose is what all unions strive for–more pay, less work, absolute power and public reverence.

National Post – (Latest Edition)

B.C.’s empty schools are a disgrace

The greater the politicization of education, the more danger that it becomes a battleground

The bitter confrontation pitting British Columbia teachers against the provincial government of Liberal Premier Christy Clark should serve as a cautionary tale for all Canadians in regard to the inherent dangers of politicizing education.

The distrust on both sides of the B.C. battle runs so deep that they can’t even agree on the nature of the disagreement. B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker says he spent 14 days over the summer just trying to get a single bargaining date. Mr. Iker maintains the two sides are not that far apart; the government says the difference is much greater than the union pretends. A veteran mediator called in to help bridge the divide walked out after declaring the sides were too far apart to even start discussing a resolution.

As usual, that leaves students and parents paying the price.

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   In spite of the irrational reverence for education, a few months off will have no effect on students. It’s merely a pause in the long, expensive IQ test that is public education. They don’t need much time for that.

The B.C. strike is about more than just class sizes, pay or benefits. The union and Ms. Clark’s government are in a war over the powers of the teachers’ union, and the question of who controls schools. The conflict dates back 25 years, when the teachers were granted full collective bargaining rights. That produced what one expert called a “crusader mentality” within the union, which sought to establish itself as the defender of public education.

As Education Minister in 2002, Ms. Clark sought to rein in union powers, stripping out class size and composition from its bargaining rights. The case has raged ever since, with courts twice finding against the government. It continues to appeal, prompting the union to demand that it set aside $175-million while the case continues to wend its way through court. The feud ensures an underlying layer of bad blood to complicate talks on more immediate issues.

Neither side attracts much sympathy. As is so often the case with public sector unions, the BCTF places its members’ desires ahead of the public’s needs, defending teachers’ perks and privileges while ignoring the realities of stretched public finances and the changing dynamics of the working world. (The government claims that union demands — including a $5,000 signing bonus and an effective wage increase of 11% — add up to double what other public sector workers have settled for).

As the minister who first sought to curtail bargaining rights, Ms. Clark is in a particularly poor position to be overseeing the conflict, since any concession now would effectively mean admitting the government had wasted a decade over court confrontations that did little but add to the rancour and run up the legal bill.

While students sit at home and parents scramble for daycare, Canadians outside B.C. can learn a lesson from this. Union-government confrontations rarely work to the benefit of the people who pay all their wages. The greater the politicization of education, the higher the danger that schools become a battleground for competing egos and rival agendas. A similar confrontation took place in Ontario in 2012 when former premier Dalton McGuinty froze teachers’ wages and banned strikes as part of an effort to control costs and reduce a ballooning deficit; the bitterness of the resulting conflict so alarmed all involved that both parties are making efforts to conduct current talks in a less confrontational manner.

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     Ontario continues on its way to bankruptcy sped on by the bloated “public service” sector. Good times.

The prospects for peace in B.C. remain remote. Canadian public sector unions are fighting a rearguard holding action against any reduction in the privileged position they are accustomed to, and the BCTF appears particularly vociferous in its determination to hold back the inevitable. Ms. Clark, meanwhile, campaigned on a pledge to balance the budget and can’t agree to a rich deal for one union when others have settled for less. Canadians can only watch in disgust and do all the y can to keep politics out of the classrooms of their own provinces, while letting teachers know the days of endless increases have passed.

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     Politics is not the Greatest Show On Earth, but it is by far the most expensive.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

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