Fashion on the Line

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As we begin another week of the longest teachers’ strike in BC history, there is no news. Sadly this is not a case where no news is good news. There’s no end in sight.

After a summer travelling across the country, taking part in ice bucket challenges, sampling dill pickle vodka and posting inflammatory tweets about greedy teachers, our premier finally called a press conference to add her two cents.

Unfortunately she made several false claims.

I’m still trying to figure her out.

Either she deliberately lied to sway public opinion against teachers or she’s so uninformed that she genuinely believes teachers are asking for “unlimited massages and extra days off.”

Yikes! The premier’s either incompetent or dishonest. I can’t decide which quality’s more dangerous in a leader.

On a more personal note, I’m facing the dreaded picketing striker fashion dilemma.

My summer shoes of choice, a comfortable pair of soft suede ballet flats, while perfect for a day of shopping, are not up the rigours of walking a section of pavement for three hours straight. My other choice, running shoes, offer more support but…ugh!

Have you ever tried to co-ordinate runners with a summer dress? It’s not a good look!

The Ghost of Walmart

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My sailor and I went to the mall on the weekend. Normally I have to twist his toned and muscular arm to get him near any shopping venue, but he needed to get some man stuff–duct tape and batteries–so he suggested the trip.

As usual when we go shopping together, I ditched him as soon I arrived in my happy place (the mall!) It’s not that I don’t enjoy our time together–he lurks.

He follows me from shop to shop, silently observing. He’s doesn’t judge or try to control my spending (although he has been known to exclaim, “Seriously? Another purse? How many do you need?”)

Nothing takes the fun out of shopping like a lurker…nothing except being on strike.

The stores were buzzing with back to school sales and school supplies–they were everywhere! I don’t know who’s buying them as there’s still no word on when we’ll be back in class. I haven’t bought my boy’s because a stack of unused supplies in a corner collecting dust and dog hair will just depress me.

Since school supply shopping was out I drifted to the clothing and shoe stores. Big mistake! After a summer in swingy little dresses, I’m ready for cozy sweaters and socks and boots–I love me some black leather riding boots!

But not having an income changes the shopping dynamic profoundly. I was like a TV ghost–I could see the shopping action but couldn’t participate in it because I’m not in the zone with the people who get paid. It was so unsettling, I stayed away from mirrors, half afraid I wouldn’t see a reflection.

I’m luckier than many because I know we’ll have food in our tummies and a roof over our Chihuahua no matter how long this drags on.

I believe in what we’re striking for and I support my union.

I’m taking a huge financial hit to stand up for quality public education for ALL kids, not just mine.

That actually feels better than another new purse.

Sign of the Times

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This my last week of freedom.

Although school isn’t scheduled to start until September 2, we’re back on the picket lines beginning Monday. I’ve drawn the early shift. It’ll be tough answering to the alarm clock, but I don’t mind getting my shifts done early.

What really concerns me is the state of public education in this province.

The government isn’t budging in their negotiations. Well, that’s not actually true. They’re moving backwards, taking things off the table at each meeting. The wage package they’re currently offering is less than it was in May and their signing bonus expired in June.

At this rate, we’ll be paying them if we ever get back to work.

But wait–it’s not all doom and gloom. There is public money available!

The government proposes to pay parents of children under thirteen $40 per day for the duration of the strike/lock out. This money is meant to cover the cost of child care and tutoring or other “educational options.” Apparently only elementary students need to keep up with their studies. High schoolers (you know, the ones preparing for university or trade school entrance) won’t generate any money for alternate educational options.

In a stunning gesture of good will the government has also lifted the lock out to allow teachers to enter schools. Yes, teachers will be able to prepare for the start of the new school year on their own time! I guess they want us primed and ready to go when they finally starve us into submission and we get back to work.

In October, we’ll hear the verdict of the government’s second expensive appeal of the case they keep losing. (Years ago the government stripped class size and composition language from the teachers’ contract. Two different courts have told them this was illegal and ordered them to fix things. Have they listened? Hell no! If you don’t like the verdict, appeal! Then appeal again… and again…)

In an effort to remain realistic, my wish for the 2014/15 school year is something we might actually get…

…new picket signs!

The old ones are pretty ratty after a couple of rainy days last June and it looks like we’ll be wearing them for quite some time.

Locked Out!

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Today was a big day on the line.

We got to turn our ratty signs over to indicate we’re now officially locked out by the employer, not on strike.

To the kids who are out of school, it’s likely a subtle difference, but it had a huge impact on recent events, particularly the teachers’ 86% vote to escalate job action to a full-scale strike. This afternoon, one teacher on the line summed it up: the three-day lock out at the end of June combined with the 10% pay cut for the rest of the month, made the strike a no brainer.

I hesitate to say the government provoked the teachers’ strike, but if I was cynical I’d admit it kind of looks that way.

As of this morning, the situation is “fluid.”

We’re expected to picket all summer. Summer school has been cancelled so there will be no picket lines. The Minister of Education is seeking a ruling from the Labour Relations Board to designate summer school an essential service. (No word on who he’ll get to teach summer school if the LRB rules in his favour. Given the current state of the relationship, I can’t see many teachers applying for those jobs. Surely we haven’t reached the point where teachers can be forced to work.)

So, work remains a mess.

On the personal front, I’m a year into The Sailor’s Woman (yay, me!)

Lately I’ve missed the occasional post. I’ve had to admit to myself that my life just isn’t interesting enough to generate three posts/week 😦

I’ve reached two decisions:

I may switch to once or twice per week.

I’ll stop beating myself up for missing a post.

On the Line

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After weekend talks between the BCTF (Teachers’ Union) and BCPSEA (Dirty Rotten Government Negotiators) failed spectacularly, we’re on a full-scale strike.

Many of us believed a last-minute deal could be reached. Hopes were dashed when we learned the union’s offer (presented Friday afternoon) wasn’t even countered until Sunday evening. So much for the “round the clock” bargaining we’d all been promised.

Not surprisingly, the union’s package bringing the two sides to only 1% apart on wages wasn’t accepted. The real shocker was the government’s counter: they moved backwards in the bargaining process, offering LESS than in their previous offer.

Sigh–at this rate, I’ll be getting a bill from my school district at the end of June.

At least the weather has been good, so the mood on the line remains upbeat. Surely, there will be a positive end to his miserable situation soon.

Drawing an afternoon picketing shift on a scorching hot day, I had an opportunity to bring out an article of clothing that hasn’t seen the light of day since our 2010 Hawaiian vacation: my Tilley hat!

Tilley hats are made in Canada (go, Canada!) They float, repel rain, block UV rays, won’t shrink and even make you a latte and oatmeal every morning. Okay, they don’t actually cook breakfast, but they do come in size extra large–important for someone like me with (true confession) an oversize head. Hats never fit me, but my XL Tilley Hat does.

So, I may be involved in an ugly labour dispute, but at least I got to take a selfie in my Tilley hat.

Oh, and dogs: super cute dogs are on the line with us, offering their special brand of canine support and stealing our Timbits when they think no one is looking.

Things aren’t so bad, after all.

Why I Don’t Know Whether I’ll Vote Yes

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I recently re-blogged a post from The Coal Mine, a blog written by an eloquent BC teacher who explains the current situation between the provincial government and the BCTF.

(I’d hoped to add his post to this one. Unfortunately my technological skills are sadly lacking so they are two separate posts, appearing days apart.)

Today we all vote on whether to ramp up our rotating strikes to a full on withdrawal of service. I know how The Coal Mine will vote.

I’m still unsure how I’ll vote.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with all his points, but I feel a sense of powerlessness when I consider the injustice of the situation. (The provincial government has been found guilty of illegally stripping the teachers’ contract and bargaining in bad faith by two different courts. They have been ordered to repair the damage to the system and pay the union’s legal fees. Have they complied? Of course not! After over ten years and who knows how many gazillion dollars that could have energized the school system, the government has appealed yet again.)

So why haven’t I decided whether I’ll vote in favour of increased job action?

Partly because I have a sick feeling resistance is futile.

I’ve learned the government is above the law and the courts don’t actually carry any weight. (Don’t like the verdict?–appeal!) The party with the deepest pockets will always win because eventually the other side runs out of money fighting the endless appeals.

The stress is getting to me. I’m grumpy, snapping at everyone in the family. (Well, everyone except the dog because you have to draw the line somewhere.)

I just want an end to this conflict.

Sure, our public education system is limping along, getting a little worse every year, but maybe it’s gotten beyond the point where a group of teachers standing up to the provincial government can fix it.

That’s why I don’t know how I’ll vote later today.

Strike One!

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Labour unrest thrives here.

It’s tit for tat.

They illegally strip class size and composition concessions from our contract. We move to stage one job action.

They threaten to roll back our wages 5%. We engage in province-wide rotating strikes.

They impose a partial lock out and roll back our wages 10%.

They say potato. We say potahto.

Sigh–I wish we could call the whole thing off.

Today I got an email from the president of our local. Because I’m the staff rep for our department, I have to go to my administrator first thing tomorrow with a list of questions about the lock out and how it will impact our ability to perform our jobs.

I get that we need clarification. No one seems to know what the complicated partial lock out entails. Even the negotiator who dreamed it up admits it will be “tweaked” as necessary because the situation remains “fluid.” I just don’t want to be the person who has to poke a stick at the hornet’s nest. (I should clarify that my boss’ office in no way resembles an actual hornet’s nest. She’s a reasonable woman who is likely just as frustrated by this situation as I am.)

I did what I usually do when I’m stressed and I need reassurance. I went to my sailor and whined at length about my predicament.

As the former Commanding Officer of a unit with a number of unionized Civilian employees, he has experience dealing with labour issues. Surely he would have some words of wisdom for me.

“If you didn’t want do stuff like this, you shouldn’t have volunteered to be a union rep.”

Thanks, honey. I feel so much better now.

Labour Unrest (Warning: Political Rant to Follow!)

001We’re on strike!

Well not a strike, exactly. I don’t think we’re allowed to do that. It’s a legally sanctioned stage one job action. And it’s very complicated.

We’re not attending any meetings with principals…unless it’s related to student safety, behaviour, custody issues, legal matters, or if the principal is directly involved in providing educational programming to said student.

We’re not doing supervision of students…unless the school is unable to manage providing adequate supervision using only non-BCTF staff.

I think that’s about it.

(We teachers are a tough bunch! Piss us off and we’ll…refuse to read your emails!)

Oh yes, I forgot to mention, we’re not accepting any electronic communications, aka emails, from principals. (That’ll hit ’em where it hurts!)

What are we doing it for? Well a little more money would be nice. (BC teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.) We’re also hoping to restore class size and composition to our collective agreement. These issues were illegally stripped from our contract about ten years ago.

Since then the union and the government have been involved in numerous court battles. The union has won three times, but every time a judge sides in our favour, the government changes a law or two and appeals the ruling.

I don’t know how much they’ve spent on lawyers, but I wish someone would tell them to direct that money into the school system.