Teachers use vote to exert pressure on bargaining process
Teachers could go on a full-scale strike as early as Monday.
B.C. teachers voted Monday and Tuesday, after the Mirror went to press, on escalating job action that would see classes cancelled indefinitely.
The strike vote follows months of tension between the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government over wages and the right to negotiate class size and composition, which was removed from teachers’ contracts by the BC Liberals.
Elaine Thompson, president of the Campbell River and District Teachers’ Association, said this week’s escalation vote is meant to put pressure on the bargaining table.
“Despite months at the table and compromises on our part, government has remained firmly entrenched – there has been no offer on class size (and) composition limits, no offer on ratios for specialist teachers, no offer on preparation time, no offer on professional development funding, and no offer on a reasonable salary increase that would even keep up with inflation,” Thompson said. “The government is adamant that class limits or staffing ratios will not be part of the collective agreement. Teachers gave up two years of salary increases to get language on class size and composition which was then illegally removed in 2002. This has been determined by two supreme court rulings.”
The government has yet to re-instate class size bargaining because the education minister has said it will cost $2 billion per year to staff enough teachers to satisfy the ratio requirements.
Thompson said the BCTF is also unhappy with what the government is offering in the way of wage increases.
She said government has proposed another two years with no increase, but then a five-and-a- half per cent increase over the next four years.
“In eight years, we would have received five-and-a-half per cent in increases,” Thompson said. “With the cost of living increasing at one-and-a-half to two per cent per year, you would be agreeing to a wage cut of eight to 10 per cent. The employer also wants to institute a two-tier salary grid, i.e. lower wage grid for new teachers, which is completely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, teachers are continuing with rotating strikes among B.C. school districts. Students in Campbell River will have no school tomorrow.
The government is also continuing to enforce a partial lockout of teachers which has meant teachers spend lunch and recess outside the school.
Exams and report cards
The province has filed an application with the the Labour Relations Board to declare secondary school exams and report cards an essential service should teachers go on a full-scale strike.
The order would mean Grade 10, 11, and 12 students could still finish the school year and have access to final grades for post-secondary, bursary, and scholarship applications.
If the application is successful, it would mean teachers would be required to prepare, administer and grade all school exams and enter final course marks. The order would also apply to other unions that refuse to cross the teachers’ picket lines, including support staff.