Imagine that after saving hard for many years you bought a good, reliable car in 1993. It was nothing fancy but got you between places in relative comfort and ease. Imagine that in 2002 someone took pieces of the car away: the windshield wipers, the turn signal, the radio, the heater. But the good news is that in 2016 the person who took parts of your car away was forced to return them. But instead of giving you back the functional parts they took away, they expected you make do with tying a string between the windshield wipers to move them and also suggested that you put your hand out the window when you want to indicate that you’re turning. Your radio and heater were not returned.
This is in essence what our situation is in Surrey.
In 1993, through local bargaining that resulted in a mediated settlement, we gained a contract that had relatively good language for class size and composition and numbers for non-enrolling teachers. It was not perfect, and we had planned to make more gains in future bargaining rounds. But in 1994, the BCNDP government changed the bargaining process, and since then we can no longer bargain for any cost items locally.
Our Supreme Court win in 2016 forced the government to restore our stripped language from 2002 but things have changed since then and not all the language fits current conditions. It is outdated and doesn’t work with existing programs.
Due to this, we have an agreement with the employer that says that they have to offer us remedy in some form if classes are not in compliance with Collective Agreement class size and composition limits. The agreement does not restrict the staffing that the School District can provide. The employer can choose to do better and to add resources to the system but instead we often see the same limited resources used in different ways.
Because not enough extra resources are being added to the system, classes are being organized with the maximum numbers of students. As a result, we are often seeing classes that are in violation of size and composition limits right at the start of the school year. Instead of being an exception, it seems that remedy has become the rule.
Let’s go back to the car we had in 1993. All the components worked well. There were no luxuries, just basic functionality. We’re still waiting to have a car that provided the same basic functions that it did before it was taken away. We’re still waiting for our loss to be fully restored.