Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the current announcement from the BCTF.
After a three-day strike period and bell-to-bell schedule, B.C.’s Liberal government succeeded in passing Bill 22 (the Education Improvement Act) last Thursday.
With the passing of the bill, a cooling-off period was imposed that extends the current contract and removes the limit on the number of special-needs students in the classroom.
The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is currently seeking support from its members on a possible strike action.
The union is asking its members to vote next month on a protest that could include a walkout on April 17 and 18.
This action can be judged in violation of the law, and could disrupt classrooms.
Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association (BDTA), pointed out that teachers want a fair and reasonable salary increase but are fighting more for class size, composition and working conditions for kids.
“I’m deeply disappointed,” he stated. “It’s not a surprise that (the bill) passed, but I am disappointed that we are where we are with it.”
Sabourin noted that the BCTF began its annual general meeting (AGM) last Friday; the AGM ended yesterday (March 20).
According to reports, the BCTF will make an announcement on how it intends to deal with Bill 22 this afternoon (March 21).
The BDTA is a local group under the BCTF.
“There will be regular business that we need to deal with but obviously Bill 22 and the ramifications will be extra business we will tack on and spend a fair amount of time on that,” he added.
“We have until June to come to a mediated agreement, otherwise the stripping will take effect and we don’t know where that’s going to go,” Sabourin said.
“The SD51 (School District 51) trustees passed a motion to write a letter (to the Ministry of Education) to return to free collective bargaining and at this point the government talks about a cooling off period but I don’t think teachers are feeling cooled down by this right now,” stated Sabourin. “But in this process, (the government) will be appointing a mediator, the problem with the mediator is they basically tied the hands of the mediator into a predetermined outcome.”
Trustee Dave Reid made a motion at a recent school board meeting to write to the ministry about not getting into bargaining tactics but support free collective bargaining.
“I don’t agree with either side, but I do agree with the principle that you should be able to bargain freely,” said Reid.
Reid pointed out that at the all-candidates forum in November he agreed with free collective bargaining.
“This to me isn’t free collective bargaining,” he said. “Do I think we should foot the bill? Am I saying teachers should get a 15-per-cent raise in pay? No, I’m saying I don’t agree with a lot of things on both sides, and I’m saying how they got there I don’t agree with either.”
Superintendent Michael Strukoff reminded trustees, “I think we’re a small district at the mercy of big union, big labour and big government.”
Trustee Vicki Gee agreed with Reid.
“I think we should keep it really simple, because if you look at the points, it says they can participate in free collectively bargain after you do this, and all these things too,” she said.
More SD51-related news here.