Tag Archives: Working conditions

BC schools face total budget shortfall of $130 million #bcpoli

CBC News, April 29, 2013– The B.C. School Trustees’ Association says it will call on the provincial government for more money after the election, as school boards across the province struggle with a budget shortfall of $130 million.

The trustees voted unanimously at its annual general meeting this weekend to ask whichever government is elected on May 14 to re-open the issue of school funding.

School boards are required by law to have balanced budgets, but Teresa Rezansoff, the newly-elected BCSTA president, says they are faced with wage increases and other rising costs.

“We’d like to see a commitment to sustainable, predictable funding that covers those annual cost pressures that are there,” said Rezansoff.

“There is no better investment you can make than in our future citizens and it should be an absolute top priority for any government,” she added.

The Vancouver School Board, which votes on next year’s budget on Monday night, is faced with an $8 million shortfall.

As a result, the board has decided to scrap its continuing education program and have another two-week spring break next year.

But parents say the time off means extra child care costs, adding to increasing fees and fundraising demands schools already places on families.

“It’s a direct hit to the children and to the low income families,” said parent Iraj Khabazian.

Last Week, the Coquitlam School Board took the drastic measure of cutting more than 140 jobs, after announcing a potential deficit of more than $7.5 million.

Read More: CBC News Story 1 and Story 2

BCCLA challenges “laughable” ban on free speech by Prince Rupert school board

BC Civil Liberties Association — The BCCLA is calling on the Prince Rupert School District (No. 052) to reverse its ban on teachers wearing t-shirts displaying section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the provision that protects free speech. The t-shirts display the Shakespeare-inspired question “2(b) or not 2(b)?” on the front, and the text of section 2 of the Charter on the back: 2(a) freedom of religion, 2(b) freedom of expression, 2(c) freedom of peaceful assembly, and 2(d) freedom of association.

The BCCLA argues that the ban on these t-shirts is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech displayed on the t-shirt itself. Freedom of expression guarantees the rights of speakers and listeners alike. In banning these shirts, the School District has violated both the teachers’ and students’ rights to learn, think and talk about their fundamental freedoms.

“The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

As a government body, School District No. 052 is bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the guarantee of freedom of expression and freedom of association. Governments can only limit such rights in a narrow range of circumstances, according to legal tests established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lyster added that the ban on these t-shirts is contrary to the principle that schools should be places for open discussion and inquiry: “Banning these t-shirts seems to be short-sighted attempt to cut off discussion and thinking about the basic constitutional rights that the t-shirts display. We assume that this ban has provoked a lot of discussion among Prince Rupert students. Unfortunately, the District has provided an example of a government violating the constitutional rights for its students to discuss, rather than the better example of a government respecting those rights.”

See the BCCLA’s Letter to Prince Rupert School District Board

BC Civil Liberties Association wades in on teacher controversy

Vancouver Sun, Zoe McKnight, February 4, 2013 — The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is accusing the Prince Rupert school board of infringing on teachers’ freedom of speech by banning the wearing of t-shirts printed with those exact Charter rights.

Three teachers in School District 52 were told last Monday to remove or cover their black t-shirts emblazoned with wording from Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights, which includes the right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

“The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit — it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” BCCLA president Lindsay Lyster said, adding that schools have an obligation to encourage open discussion.

In an open letter to chair Tina Last and other board members, Lyster asks the school district to rescind the ban on the t-shirts, which were part of a protest organized last week by the B.C. teachers’ union to mark the 11th anniversary of legislation stripping teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition.

The school board said the t-shirts were a form of political messaging, which is against the rules.

Read more: Vancouver Sun

States Push Ahead With Plans to Arm Teachers

An instructor helps a student at a teachers-only firearms training class in Sarasota, Florida on January 16. (Reuters)

The Atlantic, Emily Richmond, January 22, 2013 —  In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, lawmakers are moving quickly to respond to the public outcry to do more to ensure schools are safe. But will arming teachers — or putting an armed guard at every school in the nation, as the NRA has suggested — make a meaningful difference? Or would it actually increase the risk of harm, as some gun control advocates contend?

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky recently addressed those concerns with a degree of candor that might not help advance his crusade to allow educators to pack heat. At an event with business leaders in Oldham County (as recorded by the Louisville Courier-Journal), Rand said the following: “Is it perfect? No. Would they always get the killer? No. Would an accident sometimes happen in a melee? Maybe.”

Labor groups and associations representing the nation’s school teachers and principals have already saidthat asking educators to be prepared to respond to an armed intruder with similar firepower is an unreasonable burden. At the same time, there’s also been a reported spike in interest among some teachers who say they want to know what their options are when it comes to protecting themselves — and possibly their students — from an armed intruder on campus.

For more than decade, the Utah Shooting Sports Council has offered free weapons training to teachers. The first class of the new year brought ten times the normal enrollment, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The class covers the fundamentals of applying for a concealed weapons permit, carrying a weapon, and using it to respond to an emergency. And the training doesn’t just focus on how to respond with a gun. Teachers are also taught techniques such as “gouging an attacker’s eyes, choking an attacker and how to hide,” according to the Tribune.

Utah teachers are far from the only ones expressing increased interest in concealed weapons. There has also been a jump in inquiries at gun training clinics in Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post, even though the state bans nearly all weapons at public schools.

Read More: The Atlantic

Henry A. Giroux | The War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times

Truth-Out December 17, 2012. The tragic deaths of 26 people shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., included 20 young children and six educators. Many more children might have been killed or injured had it not been for the brave and decisive actions of the teachers in the school.  The mainstream media was quick to call them heroes, and there is little doubt that what they did under horrific circumstances reveals not only how important educators are in shielding children from imminent threat, but also how demanding their roles have become in preparing them to negotiate a world that is becoming more precarious, more dangerous – and infinitely more divisive.   Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.  What is repressed in these jarring historical moments is that teachers have been under vicious and sustained attack by right-wing conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and centrist democrats since the beginning of the 1980s. Depicted as the new “welfare queens,” their labor and their care has been instrumentalized and infantilized[1] they have been fired en masse under calls for austerity; they have seen rollbacks in their pensions, and have been derided because they teach in so-called “government schools.”  Public school teachers too readily and far too pervasively have been relegated to zones of humiliation and denigration.  The importance of what teachers actually do, the crucial and highly differentiated nature of the work they perform and their value as guardians, role models and trustees only appears in the midst of such a tragic event. If the United States is to prevent its slide into a deeply violent and anti-democratic state, it will, among other things, be required fundamentally to rethink not merely the relationship between education and democracy, but also the very nature of teaching, the role of teachers as engaged citizens and public intellectuals and the relationship between teaching and social responsibility.  This essay makes one small contribution to that effort.

The War Against Public School Teachers

Right-wing fundamentalists and corporate ideologues are not just waging a war against the rights of unions, workers, students, women, the disabled, low-income groups and poor minorities, but also against those public spheres that provide a vocabulary for connecting values, desires, identities, social relations and institutions to the discourse of social responsibility, ethics, and democracy, if not thinking itself.  Neoliberalism, or unbridled free-market fundamentalism, employs modes of governance, discipline and regulation that are totalizing in their insistence that all aspects of social life be determined, shaped and weighted through market-driven measures.[2] Neoliberalism is not merely an economic doctrine that prioritizes buying and selling, makes the supermarket and mall the temples of public life and defines the obligations of citizenship in strictly consumerist terms. It is also a mode of pedagogy and set of social arrangements that uses education to win consent, produce consumer-based notions of agency and militarize reason in the service of war, profits, power and violence while simultaneously instrumentalizing all forms of knowledge.

The increasing militarization of reason and growing expansion of forms of militarized discipline are most visible in policies currently promoted by wealthy conservative foundations such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute along with the high-profile presence and advocacy of corporate reform spokespersons such as Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and billionaire financers such as Michael Milken.[3] As Ken Saltman, Diane Ravitch, Alex Means and others have pointed out, wealthy billionaires such as Bill Gates are financing educational reforms that promote privatization, de-professionalization, online classes, and high-stakes testing, while at the same time impugning the character and autonomy of teachers and the unions that support them.[4] Consequently, public school teachers have become the new class of government-dependent moochers and the disparaged culture of Wall Street has emerged as the only model or resource from which to develop theories of educational leadership and reform.[5] The same people who gave us the economic recession of 2008, lost billions in corrupt trading practices, and sold fraudulent mortgages to millions of homeowners have ironically become sources of wisdom and insight regarding how young people should be educated.

Read More: Truth-Out: Henry A. Giroux | The War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times

An Open Letter Concerning CUPE 2278 and Job Action

An Open Letter Concerning CUPE 2278 and Job Action

A strike is a good thing and especially a good thing for the University of British Columbia at this moment in time. The very courageous CUPE 2278 labour action, full strike pending, is a wake up call, a breath of fresh air, or a catalytic measure for an apathetic campus, faculty and student bodies inclusive. Yes, there are individuals taking chances and stances on issues online and off, but a collective movement has materialized at UBC. Yes, those of us fortunate enough to be members of unions or the Faculty Association accept that a collective agreement is better than an individual agreement.

We invite students, faculty, staff, and administrators to do all they can to make CUPE 2278’s—the Teaching Assistants’– strike meaningful, effective, and successful and help the GTAs inject the campus with the spark and power of activism.

What to do as a student, faculty member, or administrator in the face of a strike? The question for staff tends to be redundant as union members in sympathy will rarely, if ever, have to or want to cross picket lines.

First, a matter of policy.  UBC’s Strike Policy and Guidelines note that the “University respects the right of students, staff or faculty members as a matter of conscience, to refuse to cross a picket line in a labour dispute.” Once a student communicates a decision to side with the striking workers (usually by the first or second day of the strike), accommodations have to be made or will be made once the job action resolves. Missed assignments will be given an extension and have to be completed. Students can gain access to a “senior faculty member to serve as an academic arbiter for students who have sought to resolve their concerns with their Faculties but feel that they have been treated unfairly.” Yes, faculty members, GTAs or undergraduate student employees, and staff may surrender salary for the duration of time taken as a matter of conscience, but it is a small price to pay for activism, dignity, and solidarity.

Strikes are not left vs. right politics, as eventually most want nothing more than fair treatment and find or would give a lot for the security and protection of unions. Reciprocity and shared benefit may be expected in the future when your union is mobilizing for job action. Just as the CUPE 2278 strike is a good thing for UBC at this point, honoring or participating in this strike is a good thing.  Individual dignity is bound to collective power.

Undergraduate students, keep in mind that inasmuch as you can organize a protest, and some of you have, you can also strike in sympathy with your graduate student peers. You can strike regardless of whether CUPE 2278 strikes. The BC Labour Code establishes limitations to the rights of workers or unions such as CUPE 2278, but is does not govern student strikes. As an example, the Quebec student strike lasted seven months, the longest student strike in Quebec history. For an excellent guide to student strikes, see the FAQ from the Students’ Society of McGill University http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/blog/2012/03/student-strike-faq/. It is a fair question to ask, in this case, ‘why don’t faculty members strike?’  Many faculty members at UBC wish we could but our Collective Agreement with the University has a “Prohibition of Strikes and Lockouts” clause. We will support strikes in sympathy nevertheless.

Second, a matter of pragmatics. From a labour activist standpoint, ‘do everything in your conscience and power to support the job action.’ Neither desire nor expect business-as-usual, as a disruption of this business is the intent of most job action, boycotts, etc. If you have to, plan ahead and retrieve necessities from your office or locker prior to the strike, as crossing a picket line is an aggressive response to the striking workers. If you find yourself behind picket lines, move to reposition yourself on the other side of the pickets. If your building of campus is picketed, do not try to sneak in a rear entrance to rationalize that you did not actually “cross” a picket line to get there. Being asked to cover and doing the work of those on strike is an anti-labour or anti-union response that invalidates the purpose of the job action and ultimately makes for a heated, toxic workplace, or in this case university. Be present and invest in strength in numbers. If you’re an administrator, especially without a real “management” designation, well, use your conscience and please don’t direct minutiae from the top down to intimidate the students and faculty. Call in sick if you don’t want to join your students and faculty on the picket line.

What do we have in common and when should we act collectively? For the most part, day in, day out, the only group demonstrating their political capital or clout at UBC is management, and in many ways what a conservative, corporate-driven, regressive politics this turns out to be! Management has its aggressive side and we can readily draw the connections between this and a learned apathy of faculty and students. As 180,000 students took to strikes, protests, and occupations of campuses and streets between February and August in Quebec, it is an affirmation of activism for a student movement to materialize here at UBC and what we used to call the ‘left coast.’ A strike is economically a good thing as well, as it sends a message to the University and government that “net zero workers” and bad faith approaches to collective bargaining are not working. A net zero mandate removes the ability of unions to actually bargain and legitimizes an employer’s option to shirk accountability at the bargaining table. The reasonableness of a CUPE 2278 strike is undeniable, as it would help workers across the province— everyone gains. So, the graduate teaching assistants’ union decision to hold a strike vote and mobilize for action is precisely the injection of student power into activism and bargaining that this campus needs. And let’s not forget the courage of CUPE 2278 in its valiant effort to bring a sense of fairness to the University and government in the full strike of 2003. Again, this is a declaration of full support.

Thank you,
Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors of the Institute for Critical Studies in Education (ICES), co-Editors of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and blogging at Workplace.

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog

Workplace Issue #19 Launched

The Institute for Critical Education Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #19, “Belonging and Non-Belonging: Costs and Consequences in Academic Lives.” The new issue is accessible at Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.

This special issue represents powerful narrative analyses of academic lives– narratives that are sophisticated and sensitive, gut-wrenching and heart-rendering. “Belonging and Non-Belonging” was guest edited by Michelle McGinn and features a rich array of collaborative articles by Michelle, Nancy E. Fenton, Annabelle L. Grundy, Michael Manley-Casimira, and Carmen Shields.

Thank you for the continuing interest in Workplace and Critical Education.

Institute for Critical Education Studies
http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/

ICES Delivers Petition to BC Legislature

At lunch hour today, we collated and delivered, to BC Premier Clark and Minister Abbott, 400+ signatures from faculty members, librarians, administrators, students, and staff in post-secondary institutions across the province in support of BC Teachers and the BCTF.  See Petition Site for more.

Thank you to all who helped circulate and signed this petition!  Your activism and presence make a difference.

 

“Proverbial snowflake, hellbound” is Liberals’ Fate in BC

For two solid days in dozens of cities and towns across British Columbia, tens of thousands of students, parents, faculty members, peer unions, and the BC Federation of Labour turned out in support of the BCTF and teachers.  For the rally in Victoria yesterday, the President of the Canadian Federation of teachers flew across the country to be there, as did peer teaching union presidents and representatives from as far as Nova Scotia.  This is bigger than the BCTF BC Fed President Jim Sinclair announced over the last two days.  For the BC Fed and everyone showing their solidarity, this is about standing up for the province, for what is right and just, for rights, for workers, for people young and old struggling from day to day as citizens.  This is about democratic rule and the BCTF and BC Fed are in this for the long haul.  BCTF President Susan Lambert rallied today in Vancouver, promising the BC Liberals’ as they move on oppressive, debilitating legislation, that this governing party’s chance of re-election is that of a “proverbial snowflake, hellbound!”

BCTF President Lambert Speaks out at Vancouver Rally

That’s powerful and resonates with the vast system of public support that is turning out for the rallies across the province.  To try and govern workers– to try and suppress a labour movement that is ascendent and increasingly unified– with this might of legislation, Bill 22, is foolish.  The opposition party, the NDP in BC, is doing all it can to undermine and debate this anti-democratic legislation that is Bill 22.  Adrian Dix, Leader of the NDP, guaranteed the labour movement yesterday in Victoria that his party was not resting and would do everything in its power to give teachers the fair right to bargain– a right that every public or private sector union or professional association deserves.