Pique n' your interest 

Essential circuses

I’m know I’m asking for trouble, but here goes:

I support the Liberal government in their recent decision to restore education as an essential service under the Labour Code "to ensure that no child’s right to an education is denied during school strikes and lockouts." The same labour code provision existed between 1987 and 1992.

Although I don’t like the idea of any group being denied collective bargaining rights or the right to strike, it could be argued the unions representing teachers and school support workers in many ways brought this legislation upon themselves. By exercising the right to strike in the past, to secure everything from higher wages to smaller classroom sizes, they seem to have alienated the taxpaying public – they voted Liberal, didn’t they?

And now it’s turned into a numbers game that it would take Grade 12 Calculus to understand.

According to the Ministry of Skill Development and Labour, B.C. students have lost over four million student days in the past 10 years because of labour disputes.

"Fundamentally, it is about ensuring that no child’s right to education takes a back seat to a labour dispute," said Labour Minister Graham Bruce.

According to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, those numbers are grossly misleading: while over four million student days were lost, they say, almost one billion student days were taught. In other words, "99.6 per cent of the total days were taught and only 0.4 per cent were lost because of labour disputes," according to a BCTF backgrounder on essential service legislation. "Over the last nine years B.C. students have lost less than one day of schooling – 0.81 days to be precise – due to strikes. That translates into only 27 minutes per year."


The government got its numbers by multiplying the number of students in school since 1992 by the number of strike days. The BCTF got its numbers by multiplying the number of students in school since 1992 by the number of school days.

And never the twain shall meet.

My main objection to teacher strikes is the effect they have on students. For some of the students in middle grades, a strike is nothing more than a holiday – would that it would last forever! For younger students, it means that a parent has to stay home from work or they have to fork out for day care in addition to the taxes they pay for schooling. For others, especially those students in the upper grades who have college and university to think about, a strike is a huge inconvenience.

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