Teachers launch full-scale three-day strike
Teachers voted last week for a full-scale, three-day strike, eliminating student services throughout the Nicola Valley until Thursday.
The Nicola-Similkameen School District 58 and jurisdictions throughout the province voted 87 per cent in favour of the strike starting yesterday (Monday).
“This is the situation of the day,” said Richie Gage, vice-chair of SD 58 trustees. “When adults can’t agree and there is a strike, that’s when it’s going to really impact students and it’s going to really impact parents.”
Parents received notices about strike action last week and were told to keep their children at home, but schools will remain open and some staff will be on site. Buses aren’t running for the duration.
The Strong Start Program for preschool kids is operating as usual.
A total 32,209 ballots were cast and 27,946 supported the strike. Approximately 79 per cent of the 41,000 teachers throughout the province voted.
“I’m hoping we get back to the situation as soon as possible, where parents are receiving report cards and teachers are back doing their regular duties that they did before,” Gage said.
Teachers illegally went on strike in 2005 for five days, but Gage said he’d be surprised if teachers walked out if Bill 22 is passed. The bill, which is being dubbed by the Liberals as the Education Improvement Act, was tabled in legislature last week and makes strike action illegal.
Education Minister George Abbott said most people consider Bill 22 “measured, thoughtful, balanced and constructive.”
“If you look at the history of the relationship between the teachers’ union and the government in this province, you’ll soon realize that in almost 20 years of provincewide bargaining, the BCTF (B.C. Teachers’ Federation) has only successfully concluded one negotiated agreement,” he said. “I am disappointed by the initial comments coming from the teachers’ union.”
He said he is most frustrated that the union is asking for mediation, but then rejecting the idea because the mediator must look at the needs of both the government and of teachers to “put the needs of students first.”
The earliest likely time the Legislature will read the bill is Friday.
Representatives from BCTF said the bill seeks a net-zero contract that restricts the ability to negotiate learning conditions.
“Teachers are determined and united in their opposition to Bill 22 and to the bullying tactics of a provincial government that has deliberately underfunded public education for a decade,” said Susan Lambert, president of the BCTF.
The bill would impose a six-month “cooling off” period. A mediator is appointed at the time to work with teachers and school district employers to come to terms with a net-zero mandate that would freeze costs unless savings are found elsewhere.
“The results of our provincewide vote are strong evidence of the unity and determination of BCTF members in rejecting this government’s provocative and damaging legislation,” Lambert said.
Phase 1 of the job action resulted in teachers refusing to issue report cards, attend staff meetings, communicate with administrators and supervise students.
The government will save an estimated $11 million per day in teachers’ wages, an Education Ministry Spokesman said.
Prior to any approval in Legislature for Bill 22, teachers are allowed three consecutive days to strike and then one day each week. Teachers are required to give two days notice to parents prior to walking off.