Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We All Lose In BC Teacher Labour Dispute

Who will win in the latest labour dispute between BC teachers and the provincial government? It doesn't matter, all of us are already losing.

Now a politician isn't going to tell a province this, a union representative isn't going to hold a press conference to point it out, and people aren't going to buy a newspaper to read about it because it's not something we want to hear. But the fact is we're selfish, and as a growing majority of British Columbians continue to put their self-interest above the teachers in this province it's clear we're only becoming more so.

Years ago during labour disputes unions received public support almost by default, where there was a clash between fellow Canadians and a faceless corporation or a cold government, the majority would almost instantly side with their fellow worker. Today without so much as a picket line formed or even without a magic marker touching poster paper a majority of British Columbians already oppose their teachers going on strike.

Public opposition to the teachers does not come from a disproportionate burden, parents have only had to go without receiving report cards for a few months, while teachers still doing their jobs have only received pay decreases in their real wage for the last three years. The majority of BCers that oppose a strike, do so not because of their own personal wages stagnating because statistics show they have increased, but because BCers have grown to care more about their own minor inconveniences than they do about major difficulties facing others.

The decline of support for unions is indicative of a wider social change, where once we demonstrated a strong community spirit across Canada, we are now self-interested first, if not solely. It wasn't always like this though.

For most of the twentieth century Canadians were incredibly socially-oriented, not only were there many strong unions, but there were many strong churches, many volunteers, and many more community organizations. There were social movements for civil rights to labour laws, there were protests for feminism to peace, and there were politics from universal healthcare to the Canadian Pension Plan; the period was a time of social awareness and action, the period was a time of thinking of community and country.

As the 1980s arrived Canadians that once saw themselves as part of society began to slowly see just themselves. In recent years not only have there been less unions, but there have been increases in back-to-work legislation and public support for such government-mandated efforts has grown.

In the last few decades the same trend that has weakened unions has closed churches; the same subordination of the community that has dwindled support for our fellow workers has rendered volunteers in short supply; the same self-interest that has dominated politics has reduced voter turnout to record lows. The trend between declining support for unions and the declining participation of Canadians in social activities is clear, the trend is our ever-increasing individualism; our strengthening selfishness.

In this recent labour dispute, as the public puts themselves first, it isn't a question of who will win, the teachers or the BC government, the question is when will it be in our self-interest to stop being so self-interested?

2 comments:

Frunger said...

The public doesn't support work action or striking public servants because by and alrge they are well paid with benefits that the rest of us will never get close to seeing and read any grievance by unions as petty and self serving.

The public has also gotten lazy and won't look into the arguments on both sides of the dispute. They will assume that the workers are the ones being unreasonable because unions act unreasonable more often than not.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Frunger, I agree completely with your last paragraph, but would only replace "unions act unreasonable" with "unions straying from their original purpose", that of being the organization of the worker to work towards making the company as successful as possible.

As for the implication that teachers are well paid I would disagree, but I admit it's a value judgement of the role education has in our society.