Teachers in the province of B.C. have been in limited job action since school began in September. Despite numerous negotiation sessions and even the hiring of mediator Vince Ready, the two sides, the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the Province’s bargaining agent BCPSEA, remain far apart.
The BCTF are voting Tuesday and Wednesday on whether to fully withdraw their services and strike.
Tuesday, the provincial government introduced legislation that extends the teachers’ current contract and appoints a mediator to try and help the two sides achieve a negotiated settlement. However, the legislation is unlikely to be passed for at least a week.
“It does not impose a new contract,” said B.C.’s Education Minister George Abbott. “We will be extending that existing contract to cover the period of mediation.”
“We have applied to the Labour Relations Board to have a full withdrawal of services,” said Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay/Columbia Teachers Union. “We’re on a legal strike right now. We are waiting for ruling on escalating our job action.”
The B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled that the BCTF can have a three-day strike, and follow that up with one day strikes each week.
The teachers’ job action thus far has consisted of not filling out report cards, meeting with administrators, or supervising children in playgrounds. A yes vote by the teachers could mean a full withdrawal of services as early as the end of this week, said Davidoff.
“Of course, the legislation will have a big impact,” he said. “If the government introduces legislation today, legislating us back to work because we’re already on strike, then of course we wouldn’t be able to have a legal, full withdrawal of services.
“We’re having a vote today and tomorrow on full withdrawal of services,” he said on Feb. 28. “That’s a provincial vote. Every member of the BCTF is voting on that. That result will be announced late tomorrow night or early Thursday morning to the public. When the government is acting like a bully, sometimes teachers have to stand up to that bully.”
The BCTF demands have remained the same throughout the strike: fair salary, increased support for special needs in the classroom, and input into benefits packages.