Premier Christy Clark's proposition to strike a 10-year period of "labour peace" with the B.C. teachers seems like a high-stakes poker game to the president of the Burnaby Teachers' Association.
"To me it seems like a high-pressure, high-stakes poker game, not so much about creating stability in the system in a meaningful way with the main stakeholder group, which is teachers," said James Sanyshyn, president of the Burnaby Teachers' Association.
Sanyshyn was commenting on Clark's Wednesday announcement that the province would like to review the teacher bargaining process and bring in a 10-year deal with teachers, creating a period of stability, free from the ongoing labour disputes that have plagued the two parties for years.
"Imagine being able to negotiate a 10-year deal," Clark said in a press release. "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."
But Sanyshyn is wary of the proposition.
"As teachers, we would hope government is being genuine and they've learned from past mistakes, when they strip collective agreements and jam through legislation that makes them end up losing in the courts later on," he said. "If government really wants to make peace with teachers, then there needs to be a remedy of stripping from collective agreements from 10 years ago. ... Let's settle it now. Where's the remedy? We need more teachers in schools to help students with special needs. We need more counsellors to help kids who are being bullied, we need more teacher librarians to help kids read. When you are cutting these things, you are attacking the public education system."
Sanyshyn also raised concerns about the length of the deal.
"It's hard to do in terms of collective bargaining. So much changes over the course of decade," he said.
Instead, Sanyshyn would like to see a royal commission on education - an independent in-depth review of the system funded by government that concludes with recommendations to improve education.
"That would be a better way to find stability in the system from my perspective than this plan," he said.