Where is our MLA’s voice in teacher strike?

Cowichan – Mr. [Bill] Routley: I remember your loquacious appeals to the unionized workers of the Cowichan Valley for their support in your goal to represent them in the Legislature of B.C. Your bid was couched in terms that suggested you would look out for those workers and make sure their voices were heard and that some of their needs were addressed.

Well, I am a member of a union in the Cowichan Valley, a union that has been treated despicably by the government of our day. I am a teacher in School District 79 and over the course of the last month we have had our salary arbitrarily reduced by 10 per cent.

Then we were “partially locked out”, and not permitted to work with our students before school, after school and during lunch breaks. This partial lock out is an employer strategy unprecedented in labour/union history. Then we were threatened with a full three-day lockout for secondary teachers and one day for elementary teachers in the final week of the regular school year. Again, this type of “partial lockout” by a government is precedent-setting in contract negotiations history, mystifying in its implementation, and unsupportable in democratic societies.  What I am wondering about you is: Where is your strong voice for working people and their children now?  Where are the speeches you made that have supported fair and democratic bargaining procedures for negotiating collective agreements, in the very few days our legislature has met?  Where are the letters of support you have written to speak of your outrage at the underfunding of education and the authoritarian imposition of crippling working/learning conditions for the teachers and children of this province? Why is there only a hollow ominous silence coming from 273 Trunk Rd. in Duncan? Where are your promises of making the working person’s voice heard in the Legislature? I am discouraged and bitterly disappointed in your representation of some of the constituents of this area. I am only one of many (over 500 teachers in this district) who are asking the same questions. We represent a good portion of the people who believed you when you spoke. I, for one, feel betrayed. We teachers feel horrible about being backed into this morally disturbing situation.

What can you do? Let us hear your voice now.

Urge this government to find a mediator to settle this contract dispute as soon as possible. Hold the government’s feet to the fire and work tirelessly to ensure that the children of this province are provided with a fully funded public education program that meets the needs of all of our children/students.

I look forward to your response in the form of speaking out for teachers and students in the Cowichan Valley.

Jeanne Berryman