B.C. teachers to take strike vote in June
Teachers across the province will take a strike vote between June 24 and 28 if they are unsatisfied with the collective bargaining progress.
“This is not something we take lightly,” said Jill McCaffery president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teacher’s Association, echoing statements by BC Teacher’s Federation president Susan Lambert.
The vote would be supervised by the Labour Relations Board and give teachers 90 days to launch provincewide collective action in time for the start of school in September.
McCaffery said the job action would be phased, starting with teachers refusing to undertake administrative tasks or attend unnecessary meetings, “focusing all their energy on students.”
“Parents may not even notice much of a change as teachers intend to continue serving our students in the classroom and communicating with parents about students’ progress,” Lambert said in a press release. “If we need to take this action in the fall we will begin by focusing on the central and joyful work of our profession — teaching our students.”
Lambert said they have been bargaining since the beginning of March but there has been little progress.
“We’re facing resistance at both local and provincial tables, with the BC Public School Employers’ Association stalling on the split of issues and local trustees refusing to bargain anything of substance,” Lambert said.
The teacher’s top priorities are improving teaching and learning conditions, improving salaries and benefits and restoring the local bargaining that was done before 2002.
Complicated by the recent BC Supreme Court decision that ruled 2002 Liberal legislation is unconstitutional, McCaffery said the local employers are resisting meetings, waiting to see how things settle.
The court gave the government until April 2012 to address the issue before the legislation would actually become invalid.
She said they negotiated great solutions to local issues under the old model and they believe the recent ruling gives them the right to negotiate locally again.
They believe class size and composition is a key issue that should be negotiated locally, while things like salary and preparation time would remain provincial.
The BCTF says the 2002 legislation stripped teachers’ contracts and limited their ability to bargain and they are urging the government to immediately restore the $275 million annual funding cut since 2002.
They say 2,500 to 3,000 teachers were laid off in the province over the last nine years while the number of students has gone up.
“We believe that Premier Clark now has an opportunity to make her “families first” agenda real by restoring funding to schools and services to students this September,” Lambert said. “After a decade of deteriorating conditions, students should come back to school in September as beneficiaries of the ruling that restores teachers’ bargaining rights.”
McCaffery points out the local board has vocally opposed the cuts and she said the teacher’s threat of a coming strike vote sends the strongest message they can to restore the funding.
The local board could not be reached for comment by press time.