The Political Education of the B.C. Teachers and Their Leader Ginny Sims
Date: Wednesday, October 26 2005
The Political Education of the B.C. Teachers and Their Leader, Ginny Sims
Ginny Sims, the courageous leader of the B.C. Teachers Federation, recommended BCTF members ratify the strike settlement proposed by the balleyhooed “labour mediator” Vince Ready employed by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government.
She did so after being tragically double-crossed.
Let us not be confused about Vince Ready. He was not hired by the BCTF. He was hired – and paid expensively – to do the bidding of the Campbell government clique. And he did it. When the BCTF responded to government manipulation – as intelligent and responsible bargainers should – Vince Ready pretended to quit. (You may be sure his pay wasn’t cut. You may be sure he didn’t walk away from one cent of his money. You may be sure he didn’t break a contract and go in a huff.)
But he threw back, as he play-acted being hurt and unrespected and leaving, a deal which he had – as an employee of the Gordon Campbell government – very likely already worked out with his employer beforehand.
The BCTF should have said at the beginning: “We won’t meet with Vince Ready. When a mutually chosen and mutually paid mediator is agreed upon, we will bargain.”
The agreement to go back to school disguises wounds, betrayals, and – alas – innocence on the part of the BCTF of the kind that governments such as Gordon Campbell’s depend upon, and drive over with tanks.
Could the BCTF have won – really have won – this conflict with the reactionary forces of B.C.? It could have. But it would have had to be armed at the start.
The most important weaponry it could have had is the knowledge that the Campbell forces included the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Federation of Labour. BCTF members seem to have had the knowledge that the Campbell forces intend to wreck public education in B.C. That helped to strengthen their resolve. BCTF should have known, as well, the Campbell Liberals would stop at nothing to achieve that end, that Campbell’s allies were masked, and so the fight had to be conducted with unswerving determination.
Bill 12 (and the repression that preceded it) was no “error,” no “misjudgement” – as the teachers will discover. It was the carrying out of a clean, long-term strategy, which was briefly interrupted by the strike.
The BCTF must know now it is up against the Board of Trade, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Campbell government. It is up against the forces of globalization and privatization which have both reach and intention much larger than B.C.
The Campbell government is also, of course, the Supreme Court of B.C. Most of the judges of the B.C. Supreme Court see their own interests as inseparable from the interests of the Campbell Liberal government. The court which heard the applications against the teachers (funnelled from the Campbell Liberal government) was not objective. It did not seek justice. It did not pretend impartiality. It sought to do the bidding of the Gordon Campbell clique to which it belongs.
The BCTF must know that and must remember it in the future. Madam Justice Brenda Brown admitted as much herself. She was not interested in the dirty legislation that brought the teachers out. She was only interested in the back to work order.
That is precisely the same as saying, as a judge: “I’m not interested in laws that create slaves. I’m only concerned that when I tell them to return to their work, they show contempt for my order.” After having, in effect, said that, Madam Justice Brenda Brown made a statement suitable to a judge in Apartheid South Africa.
The teachers had a second misconception, she said. “The second misconception is that citizens have a right to breach court orders. They do not.” (The Globe and Mail, Oct 24, 05 S3) A judge who would make that bald statement without modification is either egotistically punch-drunk, or simply incompetent, or following orders. Such a person is not fit to sit on the bench.
The question of the dirty legislation which the teachers were fighting is paramount – and, of course, avoided by almost all the puppet writers of the CanWest Monopoly media in British Columbia. That is the kind of legislation that ruled in Apartheid South Africa and in Nazi Germany. Fawning judges in both cases took the position that they were not empowered to question the legislation – only to carry out its force. Such was the position of Madam Justice Brenda Brown. Whether she is simply ignorant of the full meaning of law in a democratic society or whether she is complicit in the rape of jurisprudence we may never know.
But let us face the action of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in the name of Madam Justice Brenda Brown. It was to ignore a de facto denial of basic human rights in democratic community and to use the full weight of the institution of the Court to support that denial of human rights.
Throughout the democratic world free collective bargaining is recognized as a basic human right. The Gordon Campbell government removed that right in a series of governmental actions undertaken with the effect of attempting to disguise the heinousness of its actions. Madam Justice Brenda Brown supported the removal of the right unequivocably, determinedly, and brutally.
British Columbians and all Canadians cannot feel strongly enough and cannot express loudly enough their contempt for the Supreme Court of British Columbia in its repressive action through the court of Madam Justice Brenda Brown.
The BCTF should have been ready for Brenda Brown. (A) It should have deployed its strike fund in such a way Judge Brown couldn’t get near it. (B) The BCTF should have taken strong, public exception to Brown’s first ruling, putting picketers around the Supreme Court building with very clear slogans saying Brown was a lackey of the Gordon Campbell clique. (C) If, then, Madam Justice Brown ordered the teacher pickets away from the site, their places should have been taken by non-teacher supporters. And if those people were ordered away from the site, they should have moved to Georgia Street and continued the picket.
What I am saying is that the Supreme Court of British Columbia has joined forces with the Gordon Campbell government; and any organization that is going to fight the Gordon Campbell government has to turn on the B.C. Supreme Court and expose it for its prejudice, its injustice, its war against the population of British Columbia.
Only days ago Scott Taylor reported B.C. has the lowest trust of all provinces in the judicial system of Canada with the exception of Manitoba where high profile police/legal/judicial scandals have poisoned public trust in the system. British Columbians are going to have to force a total overhaul of the B.C. Supreme Court which, at present, doesn’t deserve the respect of British Columbians. [See my recent column, “Contempt for Justice, Equity, and Human Rights in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”]
The next thing the BCTF should have been very careful about was the choice of its allies. Seasoned observers watched Jim Sinclair of the B.C. Federation of Labour some months ago sell out the Hospital Employees Union by signing a bad contract the members were not permitted to ratify. The seasoned observers were waiting for Jim Sinclair to sell out the teachers.
And he gives every appearance of having done so.
In what seems to be a staggering double-cross of the BCTF union, he announced B.C. Federation of Labour was calling off a major teacher-support shutdown of Vancouver. And he announced – in a truly dirty blow delivered to the BCTF – that the BCTF members would vote on the Vince Ready proposals (before BCTF president Ginny Sims could speak).
That clearly took BCTF by surprise. We can only imagine how the phone lines burned in the next few hours as Jim Sinclair probably told Ginny Sims he was all-but pulling his support and she’d better crumble before the Campbell government.
The political education of Ginny Sims was in progress.
I guess that story is told as well as it can be by the man I call Gordon Campbell’s personal representative at the Vancouver Sun, Vaughn Palmer. It is he who uses the phrase “veteran mediator Vince Ready”. He is only bettered by Miro Cernetig, another CanWest Monopoly Press writer. For him, Vince Ready is “master negotiator,” and Jim Sinclair of the B.C. Federation of Labour is a “labour statesman.” (Vancouver Sun, Oct 22, 05 A6)
When Vaughn Palmer and Miro Cernetig praise people, you know, almost certainly, the people they praise are sell-outs.
What Palmer says, in effect, (Sun, Oct 21, 05 A3) is that everyone knows how labour negotiations are conducted to defeat labour. To break the pattern is objectionable. The BCTF broke the pattern. The Campbell government insisted, of course, that negotiations were not even being held. In fact, they were right. Ready was at work solely for them – as became blatantly obvious. He didn’t call BCTF and government together. No. He went on CKNW to say he was quitting over BCTF fractiousness (when he really wasn’t quitting). He will continue to work as a contract employee of the Campbell Liberal clique at very high salary.
When Ready gave the sign, Jim Sinclair went into action. The B.C. Fed would not (in effect) be supporting the teachers the next day.
Then Jim Sinclair made what can only be seen as his ugly power-play to push out Ginny Sims as BCTF head and take over himself so a sell-out could be worked. Let’s use Vaughn Palmer’s honey’d words:
“Warming to the theme of an impending settlement, the Fed [B.C. Federation of Labour] boss went on to announce that teachers would be voting on the Ready recommendations.”
Surprised at the democratic nature of the BCTF [he had signed an agreement for the Hospital Employees Union, remember, denying them the right to ratify the bad agreement he had made], Jim Sinclair tried to explain. To a CKNW interviewer, he said: “I just talked to the president of the BCTF who explained to me that in their culture they take votes on things….”
He didn’t say: “and, besides, they’re not used to being bull-dozed by someone outside the union posing as their supporter and trying to push their leader aside.”
Vaughn Palmer, Gordon Campbell’s boy at the Sun, tries to tell the story so we can’t read between the lines. But we can.
On CBC Cross Country Check Up on Sunday, October 23, Palmer said, in addition, that “Sinclair deserves a lot of credit.” Indeed, Palmer added: “it’s a lot of fun out here in B.C.”
On October 22 Palmer continued Gordon Campbell’s work. Wonderful, devoted, “veteran mediator” Vince Ready worked miracles! Such miracles in fact that both Gordon Campbell and his labour minister “endorsed his recommendations unconditionally.” Since, as I say, Ready was their employee it would have been strange if they hadn’t endorsed his recommendations (especially as they probably knew them well before he made them public).
Vaughn Palmer deftly confirmed my allegations, moreover, that Madam Justice Brenda Brown was a biased party. I quote Palmer:
“’My recommendations are conditional on an expeditious return to work by the teachers,’ Ready wrote.
If that wasn’t sufficiently persuasive [writes Palmer], there was a companion message from Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown. She fined the union $500,000….”
She went on to threaten criminal charges. And the reason why became clear – because in Ian Mulgrew’s words, Ginny Sims continued “to foment”; that is to say, to fight for her union members.
That’s what we might call a co-ordinated effort. And Vaughn Palmer recorded it for the CanWest Monopoly Press.
In the same paper Ian Mulgrew, CanWest Monopoly Press columnist on law and the courts, threw himself into the fray on behalf of Gordon Campbell (disguised as a deep concern for the rule of law). Mulgrew would have done well in Apartheid South Africa. He fully endorsed the argument of judges that they “have been vested with real power and they can use it.” They can misuse it, too, and they do. That’s why trust in the judicial system in B.C. is plummeting and will continue to plummet. The ignorance, the arrogance, and the prejudicial actions of judges in the B.C. Supreme Court will go on. And when they are finally really hit, the judges will show stunned surprise.
Most of them live, work, and indoctrinate in such a complacent cocoon that they believe they have been “vested with real power” in order to serve exclusively the wealthy and the powerful. They serve the wealthy and the powerful with total, unflagging dedication. Serving justice is quite another thing.
The dirty legislation of the Campbell Liberal government was never addressed by Madam Justice Brenda Brown, though she was “vested with real power” to do so.
Her choice not to look at the legislation speaks volumes and places her loyalty for all to see. And it advertises the threat to democratic society lodged in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
The political education of the B.C. teachers and Ginny Sims includes the real role of the B.C. Supreme Court, the real role of the B.C. Federation of Labour’s Jim Sinclair, the real need to have all defenses ready at the start of a strike, and the need to remove rose-coloured glasses from their eyes. The wonderful picture teachers give grade ten students of an impartial, objective, justice-seeking Supreme Court is a joke in British Columbia. Having learned that much, the next BCTF strike may achieve goals the membership (and Ginny Sims) can celebrate.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 27, 2005]