The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced today that teachers will take a strike vote from March 4 to 6 in what they say is a push-back against major concession demands, an unfair salary offer and a “deliberately confrontational attempt” to reverse the recent BC Supreme Court decision on class size, composition, and staffing levels.
Results of the vote will be announced on the evening of March 6.
BCTF president Jim Iker said job action, if needed, will occur in stages, but any initial action will not:
– include immediate school closures or disruption for students;
– stop teachers from participating in extracurricular activities; and
– affect report cards or communication with parents.
Any escalation of job action will depend on progress at the negotiating table, Iker said.
“We will consider all job action options and timing very carefully. Our goal is to reach a negotiated deal at the bargaining table without having to resort to job action,” he said.
The BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) have been bargaining over the latest contract for a year and have had more than 40 sessions at the table.
Among the issues BCTF opposes is the BCPSEA’s offer for teachers to take up to two more years without salary increases, following no increases in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
“Trying to force wage freezes on teachers for another two years is not reasonable or fair, given what the government negotiated with other workers in the public sector,” Iker said.
“Teachers are asking for an increase that addresses the rising cost of living and a market adjustment that reflects how far we are behind other teachers in Canada. We believe that’s fair and reasonable.”
Another contentious issue is the B.C. Supreme Court ruling in January which stated that legislation retroactively removing issues such as class size and composition from teachers’ collective agreements was unconstitutional. The provincial government is appealing that decision.
Since then, Iker said the BCPSEA has tabled “unreasonable proposals” around this issue, including new language that would again strip all provisions on class size and composition and staffing levels for teacher-librarians, counsellors, special education teachers and other specialist teachers.
Doug Smuland, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association, said he anticipates that most local teachers will support the strike vote.
“Abbotsford teachers, like others around the province, are concerned with obtaining a fair deal negotiated in good faith that ultimately reflects the importance of what we do for the students within our community,” he said.
“For us, it’s about a fair deal for teachers and better supports for kids. Hopefully, this vote will bring about change at the bargaining table, and no further action that may cause disruption will be needed.”
The last teachers’ strike took place for three days in March 2012 over bargaining issues such as class size and special needs support. Teachers in Abbotsford handed out leaflets and held signs but did not block anyone from entering schools.