Sunday, October 23, 2005

B.C. Teachers Grab Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Teachers' union backs mediator's report
A few hours later, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown levied a $500,000 fine on the teachers' union for waging an illegal strike. Earlier, Ms. Justice Brown had frozen the union's assets making it impossible for striking teachers to receive their $50-a-day strike pay. It's the largest fine in Canadian history for civil contempt.

While the success of mass pickets by the BC FEd of Labour and CUPE led to the government buckling under and calling for a mediator...the final acceptance of the mediators report was made by the union...mass picketing worked...but as I predicted there would be no General Strike. Rather the labour movement, which does not consider itself a militant workers movement, but rather an intergral part of the capitalist system, accepts contracts as sacred. It accepts the give and take of labour relations as all there is, There is No Alternative (TINA).

And so the BC Teachers Federation accepted the mediators report which did justify the unions concern that class sizes were too big. But it said nothing about their other demands, whether about working conditions, wages or even an amnesty.

That being said the state of course has not assured the workers that they will accept the mediators report, and they allowed the courts to fine the union hours after the union capitualted.

"While the government accepted Mr. Ready's report, the teachers' union wanted a commitment from the province on a cap on class sizes.But B.C. Labour Minister Mike de Jong has refused to make any such guarantee."

Vengenace is in the mind of the Campbell government after being embarassed by the teachers walkout, the mass pickets and the overwhelming support of the people of B.C. for the teachers. This fight is not over, as the courts and Campbell government will use the Teachers as their whipping boy for daring to challenge them...the writing is on the wall. The teachers were fined hours after accepting the mediators report.

The teachers had no choice but to compromise, given the weight of the State and its Courts against them...this is a lesson for the whole labour movement, that workers rights are not given by contracts or the State, they are taken when we walk out and take the streets or when we seize our work places and put them under direct worker and community control. Such situations not only challenge the government but the very nature of capitalism.

Unfortunately the short sightedness of the labour movements vision has left the teachers in B.C. facing fines, and further charges, which of course they will bemoan but do little to affect. The Teachers should not go back to work until they are assured of a general amnesty. The public pickets and mass demonstration should continue until the Teachers are assured of this.

Unfortunately the labour movement has no intentions of doing anything of the sort. Not being a revolutionary workers movement, let alone a socialist one, they cannot concieve of doing anything other than going back to work.

Should they ever envision a workers movement to overthrow capitalism, they will of course shake their heads in disbelief as if arising from a bad dream. Not possible they will say. Foolish workers who believe in socialism, they will say. Like the foolishness of believing in the General Strike.

It is only a minority in the workers movement, they will say, the vast majority of our members don't want socialism or to create a classless society, they want to merely survive within capitalism.

The best we can expect from the labour movement is capitulation to contract law and the injunction that we should vote NDP to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism.


But that should come as no surprize to anyone, well except the small sects on the Left who insist that unions can be radicalized. Not likely, as they are part and parcel of the capitalist game of labour relations, they lack vision beyond the mundane bread and butter issues of the daily grind under capitalism.

That they mobilized mass picketing is the least they could do, given the fact that the workers in B.C. have faced over four years of neo-liberal attacks by the Campbel neo-liberal Government. But they failed again, as they did with the nurses strike last summer, to go all the way to a General Strike. At the eleventh hour they once again capitualted to the State.

This should not surprise anyone since the workers movement exists beyond the reach of the unions, who speak for no one but their well heeled carrerists in the bueracracy.


Civitatensis said...


Hardly. The real world does not divide so tightly into two camps. But you are right that these unions are not representing the interests of their brothers and sisters workers. Their leaders typically represent themselves with the backing of the membership. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

You missed several items the teachers did win- it was an outstanding victory for the people of B.C. against a paternalistic governement which hits female dominated jobs with a vengence.

eugene plawiuk said...

Anaon: Sorry no such luck I wish it was a Victory but it was not. There is no guarantee on wages which they were fighting for, and no assurance that the issue of class sizes will be addressed by the Campbell government.
As CP reported:
B.C. teachers vote to end two-week long strike
Amy Carmichael
Canadian Press
October 24, 2005

"Sims said the union's executive would recommend its teachers vote to accept the report _ on the condition the School Act is amended to address class-size numbers from Grades 4 to 12.

Premier Gordon Campbell refused to give any written guarantees. He said Ready recommended the government merely consult with the teachers' federation on class size limits.

The premier has pointed out that the striking teachers will be paying for the $100 million cost of the recommendations since the government has already saved as much as $160 million by not paying wages during the strike.

On Friday, B.C. Supreme Court judge fined the B.C. Teachers' Federation $500,000 for contempt of court in the illegal strike. "

This is not a victory but a defeat, the teachers and the house of labour once again capitualted to the State.

Comandante Gringo said...

Sure we don't need these bourgeois unions as presently constituted. We need a New Model Union Movement. A mass one. Led by rank-and-file shopfloor stewards and equivalent.

People are seriously discussing this as a new means of struggle -- and so look to the developing situation in the UAW rank-and-file vs. automakers for starters.