October 26, 2012 - No. 135
New Attack on Free Collective Bargaining
against attack on right to collective
bargaining, Vancouver, March 7, 2012.
• New Attack on Free Collective Bargaining for
Teachers - Charles Boylan
• Unfolding of Jobs Plan Shows Need for New
Direction for Economy - Barbara Biley
For Your Information
• Pre-Election Advertising Rules Struck Down
• Initiative Petition on Marijuana Approved
New Attack on Free Collective Bargaining
out and rally in support of teachers, March 2,
On October 17, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark
review of the teacher bargaining process that will see government
engage with the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and other
education stakeholders on how best to make systemic improvements prior
to the next round of
A government statement quotes Clark: "'As we settle into
school year, a key goal for government is to create a more stable
learning environment for BC's students and their families,' said
Premier Clark. 'Imagine being able to negotiate a ten-year deal.
Imagine a child starting Grade 2 this year moving
through to graduation without ever having to experience labour unrest
again. Can it be done? I don't know. Is it worth trying? Absolutely. We
need to put our preconceptions aside, we need to put the past behind
us, and we need to be flexible and work with teachers to achieve
long-term labour peace.'" She said,
"We need to leave the past behind us."
But the "past" is what the
BC polity must keep clearly in mind to
understand where Clark's government is heading with this latest
announcement. First off, there has been a general assault on public
education by governments of all stripes since the 1980s. A major
assault was made by the Social Credit government at that time,
that was later consolidated by the NDP government in the 1990s to
provide public financing for private for-profit schools. This broke the
historic tradition in BC of providing public funding only for public
education, the only jurisdiction in Canada not to do so. Since then
financing of private education has gone
up year by year, as financing for public education in real dollars has
A more particular "past" that Ms. Clark may not want to
about was her role as Minister of Education in 2002. On January 28,
2002 her Bill 27 and Bill 28 stripped every clause in BCTF contracts
with Boards of Education and the provincial ministry having to do with
class composition and class
size. This affected every district but one. Further, teachers had in
collective bargaining previously made a conscious decision to forgo
wage increases, thereby slipping below many provincial teacher salary
scales, in order to win important working conditions dealing with class
composition and limiting class
size. Class composition
requirements meant that for a set number of special needs students in a
class there would be a set number of special education assistants. The
legislation also prohibited the teachers from ever bargaining
classroom size or composition again. When Clark says, "We need to leave
the past behind us," she is being
duplicitous because it is precisely in that past that a major attack
was carried out against teachers' fundamental right to collective
bargaining, including their working conditions. The teachers have been
very emphatic that their right to negotiate working conditions,
including class size and composition, impacts directly
students' learning conditions. Their first concern has been the
students, as well as, of course, to maintain for teachers the
remuneration, benefits and pensions commensurate with the important
social role they fulfil.
The "past" also includes a
court case, decided in April 2011, that found Clark's 2002 legislation
in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
case the BCTF and polity learned that her
legislation to eliminate from teachers' contracts all clauses dealing
size and composition was directly dictated by the Treasury Board to cut
"costs". The Treasury Board set out for the Education
Ministry exactly what had to be cut to realize the savings demanded by
those driving budget decisions. In short, dictating what could or could
not be negotiated with teachers
had nothing to do per se with the needs of students,
teachers or creating a quality education system, but rather it was
about meeting the demands of the financial oligarchy to "reduce
government costs." Ironically, the Campbell government of the day had
just made a 25 per cent cut to provincial income
tax which paid the rich a lot and ordinary workers very little. This
"cut taxes/cut services" formula is the dictate of financial oligarchs
world-wide as they hand over public funds to the monopolies "too big to
fail," paying the rich while wrecking social programs established in
the course of many decades of struggle.
Clark has attacked free collective bargaining -- the
means through which a
of workers fights and wins wages, benefits, pensions and working
conditions acceptable to themselves and commensurate with the work
performed. She is now set to impose new collective bargaining
structures. While she feigns interest in "consulting"
teachers and other "stake holders" in education, she has provided a
time frame of only a few weeks to do so. Can anyone imagine that her
government does not already have a scheme worked out that will allow it
to impose a "ten-year peace" on the teachers, irrespective of what they
How does a collective resist this attack on its
membership and its
rights? Disequilibrium exists in the education sector because the
government refuses to recognize the rights of education workers, and
wants to degrade further public education, then hand it over to its
friends who will profit from private education.
The demand for privatization has become so strong because few areas are
now open where profit can be made anywhere in the economy.
An issue raised by Clark is how can BC have equilibrium
education sector. Her response is certainly not based on recognition of
the rights of education workers and increased investments in public
However, Clark has opened space for discussion on how
their rights in an important and broad sector. It also
opens discussion on who should be responsible for educating the youth
and determining their learning conditions, etc. According to the
class, those education workers
directly involved should be at the centre of making decisions and
determining matters such as the budget, along with students and
parents. Who else is better qualified? The same with running the
cities, forestry, etc. Currently, everything is determined and run by
those with capital and social connections. This has
to be opposed.
The direct thrust of Clark's October 16 announcement to
negotiations with teachers is to further wreck free collective
bargaining. Governments everywhere are replacing free collective
bargaining with direct dictate and the use of discretionary powers.
Take it or leave it or we will fine you and
throw you in jail. Work according to our rules or be gone!
This must not pass! All British
Columbia workers have a
direct interest in defending the teachers' right to free collective
bargaining, including the right to bargain working conditions such as
class size and composition.
Unfolding of Jobs Plan Shows Need for
New Direction for Economy
The Christy Clark
government's recent announcement that 2,000 workers from China will be
brought in to work in the new coal mines in Northern BC provides proof
what many have suspected from the outset -- the Canada Starts Here -
BC Jobs Plan has nothing whatsoever to do with "building the BC
in any way that the workers of BC would recognize as rational or
socially responsible. The BC Jobs Plan is Christy Clark's contribution
to the neo-liberal agenda which demands that all the natural and human
resources of the society be put at the disposal of the monopolies and
one of its pillars is mining. Hence
the "development" of mining in BC courts foreign investment and hands
over the resources of the province to the global market without a
thought to the well-being of the workers, the environment or the
building of a self-reliant economy. Hence human trafficking is carried
out under the Temporary Foreign Worker
An ambitious plan to "create eight new mines and expand
nine existing ones by 2015" is in the works. Measures have been put in
place to fast-track permits and the Premier has made three trips to
Asia to drum up "investment" where, she says, the prosperous and
growing middle class is an eager market. At the
same time the BC Jobs Plan acknowledges skills shortages and purports
to address these. The "skills shortages" raised by the industry are
addressed in a government document entitled "British Columbia's Mineral
Exploration and Mining Strategy -- Seizing Global Demand" issued May
16, four days after the BC Jobs Plan six-month
progress report was issued May 12 and the day following the Price
Waterhouse Coopers annual report on the mining industry in BC entitled
The BC Jobs Plan includes an acknowledgment that the
economic "development" that it envisions needs skilled workers and that
the mining industry in particular has identified a shortage of skilled
workers. Should the decision be made that mining is the first step in
processing, manufacturing, and trade for the
purposes of development on the basis of self-reliance and for mutual
benefit, it would be entirely possible, to establish a rational program
of skills training through the public secondary and post-secondary
education system in BC. But this is not the approach that the BC
government has taken to the "skills shortage."
Its starting point that
resource extraction is to satisfy the claims of the monopolies -- a
from which the workers and people of BC are entirely excluded -- has
set the path
as to how it plans to solve the problem of finding skilled workers.
outset the BC Jobs Plan has openly acknowledged that "roughly a third
of the forecasted million job openings over the next decade" in BC will
be filled through immigration. The "Mineral Exploration and Mining
Strategy" report states in a section entitled "Skills Development and
"Employers in various industries across BC are already
dealing with skills shortages. Mineral exploration and mining have been
hit particularly hard and, without action, the lack of skilled labour
could hold back the sector's growth. The primary solution lies in
education, training and diversifying into non-traditional
labour markets. The Province facilitates skills development in mineral
exploration and mining in a number of ways, but even with a multitude
of programs in place, BC may not have enough workers to fill job
openings over the next decade. Along with developing the skills of
British Columbians, the Province will
welcome and integrate skilled workers from other provinces and
countries to help keep BC's economy growing."
On the education and training front two main measures
The Industry Training Authority -- an
industry-led replacement of the apprenticeship programs that used to
support the all-sided training of trades workers. The
industry-controlled replacement provides training in only certain
aspects of trades to meet the immediate needs of industry and results
in "tradespersons" with limited skills.
Employment Skills Access -- a new program
that "provides tuition-free, group-based training at public
post-secondary institutions in response to regional priorities."
Included in the programs specific to mining are a four-month course at
North Island College on Vancouver Island called Underground
Mining, a three -month program at Northern Lights College "to prepare
people from Chetwynd for entry-level positions at a surface mine
operation," and a three-month program entitled "Mothers to Miners" at
Northern Lights College specifically for women from Tumbler Ridge to
prepare them for entry-level positions
at a surface mine operation, primarily in haul truck driving. The
University of Northern BC has a three-month certificate programme for
14 workers which is said to provide "a broad skill set for employment
in the oil and gas and mining sectors." Aside from these three- and
four-month programs there is an 18-month
course offered between February 2012 and March 30, 2013 to members of
the United Steelworkers Union in Northern BC who work in mining and
forestry to upgrade computer and other skills.
This is not the long-term all-sided education
and training that modern labour needs. This is short-sighted and
narrow-minded to suit the short-term needs of capital.
This is the context for the news of the first wave of up
to 2,000 temporary foreign workers being brought to Northern BC to work
in new underground mines. The operators are supported by the federal
government's Labour Market Opinion process, that there are no workers
with the required skills to do the work.
At the same time it has become clear that Chinese workers applying for
these jobs are being forced to pay upwards of $12,000 to recruiters. In
the spring the Harper government, as part of its first omnibus budget
bill, Bill C-38, changed the prevailing rules so that workers hired
under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker
program would be paid wages up to 15 per cent below the prevailing wage
rate for skilled workers. Temporary foreign workers enter the Canadian
workforce without support, indentured to employers whose exploitation
is virtually unregulated and, at least initially, without organization.
The Temporary Foreign Worker program is a program of
modern-day slavery in which the governments
-- both federal and provincial -- act as human traffickers, providing
employers with "legally" indentured workers who are without the basic
standards that Canadian workers have achieved.
It is aimed at providing cheap
labour without security for the migrant workers, which undermines the
conditions and organizations of the Canadian working class.
It is estimated that there are some 70,000 temporary
foreign workers in BC. There have been notorious cases over the last
few years of workers in silviculture, agriculture and construction in
particular, being forced to live in terrible conditions and work long
hours at far less than the minimum wage, who face
termination and deportation if they resist.
Resource development and the organization of the
economy, from investment to education, must be renewed and modernized
on the basis of upholding public interest, not private monopoly
interest. Canadians must hold the Harper and Clark governments to
account for their anti-worker and anti-social policies.
A pro-social direction for the economy is based on self-reliance,
humanizing the social and natural environments, trade for mutual
benefit, public education to impart the skills needed for a modern
society, and social policy that prohibits programs such as the
Temporary Foreign Worker program, providing full rights and work
for short-term employment and permanent resident status for both
undocumented workers and temporary foreign workers.
For Your Information
Pre-Election Advertising Rules Struck Down
The BC Court of Appeal on October 4 struck down the BC
Government's second attempt to impose limits on "third party"
advertising during the pre-election period.
In 2009, provisions of the Elections Act were
struck down by the Court as a result of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
challenge by public
sector unions including teachers, nurses and post-secondary educators.
That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in October 2011. The
Court said in its ruling, the legislation
"overshoots its overall objective of electoral fairness."
In May, the Liberal Government introduced new
amendments, which set a shorter "pre-election" period (40 days instead
of 60 days) with an exemption if the Legislature is still in
session. The government decided to
refer this amendment directly to
the Court of Appeal for a ruling on its constitutionality.
In an October 4 decision, Justice Lowry of the
Court of Appeal found that: "the definition of election advertising is
overly broad. It captures virtually all political expression regardless
of whether such is intended to influence the election, and, as
explained, all individuals and organizations are affected
even if their election advertising is voluntary."
Last month, the BC Government Service Employees Union
won an appeal against a $3.2 million fine imposed by Elections BC
following the Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam by-elections.
The fine was imposed when the union continued a pre-arranged
advertising campaign for several days after
Elections BC said it was prohibited. An emailed response to a union
enquiry was sent by Elections BC at 5:00 pm on a Friday and not picked
up until the following Tuesday.
BC Supreme Court Judge Barry Davies struck down the fine
September 7 on the basis that the union had acted in "good faith"
by emailing Elections BC requesting direction on the matter.
BCGSEU had initially also challenged the definition of
"election advertising" and the way in which the fine was calculated.
Those aspects of the appeal were not pursued when the fine was quashed.
The union argued that it was carrying out an advertising
campaign leading up to the expiration of its collective agreement with
the BC government, as part of a pre-arranged negotiating strategy. The
fine was calculated based on ten times the value of the "campaign"
although the campaign was province-wide
and the by-elections were only in two constituencies.
The penalty section of the Elections Act
charges third parties ten times the amount considered overspent while
political parties are charged two times.
1. BCTF et al v BC
(Attorney General) 2009
2010 BCSC 440 refusing to grant a stay. The decision was
upheld by the Court of Appeal on October 19, 2011 BCTF et al v BC
(AG) 2011 BCCA 408
2. The Miscellaneous Statutes
(No. 2), Bill 41, in Section 80 amended the Election Act to
provide for a 40-day "pre-campaign" period and for an exemption if the
Legislature is in session and for three weeks thereafter.
3. The text of the advertisement in
be found at tyee.ca/Opinion2012/08/28Elections-BC-Censorship.
Initiative Petition on Marijuana Approved
Elections BC has approved an initiative petition calling
for a referendum to amend the Police Act to restrict any
provincial funding to enforce prosecution for the possession of
marijuana. The initiative also calls on the federal government to grant
an exemption to British Columbia regarding marijuana
prohibition laws, for a study on the legal regulation of marijuana and
for possession offences for minors to be treated in a manner similar to
The collection of signatures
commences on November 17. For a petition initiative to be
successful, more than 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the
85 constituencies must sign the petition within 90 days of the
commencement date. Elections BC must then validate each
signature. To collect signatures on a petition, a canvasser must
register with Elections BC, complete the required form and carry
Elections BC identification while collecting signatures.
Elections BC has approved eight citizen initiative
petitions since 1995. The only successful initiative was the 2011
petition demanding the removal of the HST. The HST petition gathered
557,383 validated signatures. For the anti-HST initiative, Elections BC
registered 6,556 canvassers compared to 4,002 canvassers
for the failed proportional representation initiative campaign in 2002.
In the case of the HST petition, although 713,883
signatures were collected, only 557,383 were validated. The threshold
required was 299,611. In the proportional representation initiative,
212,473 were required and only 98,165 were returned in the required
period. None of the other initiative petitions came anywhere
close to obtaining the required number.
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