Teachers are threatening job action when classes resume on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Members of the B.C. Teachers Federation want a new contract with public school employers to include a number of changes in working conditions, and a substantial wage increase. They have an added weapon in their bargaining arsenal — a recent ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court stated that the provincial government legislation which took away the right of teachers to bargain on class size and composition is unconstitutional, and that teachers do have the rights to do such bargaining.
Unfortunately, the real bargaining is starting far too late in the summer to have any meaningful chance of being wrapped up by Sept. 6. That means that students will be affected by the teachers’ job action, which thus far does not include a strike, but does involve a refusal to perform non-essential services.
The way the union is fighting over every single detail on what constitutes “non-essential services” demonstrates that the two sides are miles apart. The union agreed that taking attendance was essential, but sending the results of the attendance-taking to the school office was “non-essential.” That went back to the B.C. Labour Relations Board for a ruling.
The LRB ruled that teachers should pass on the result of that attendance-taking to the school office.
Such jousting over trivialities demonstrates just how far apart the two sides are, and how unwilling they are to engage in discussion of the real issues. The employer says that the BCTF should not bring up the issue of class size and composition, despite the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
Teachers, school employers and the provincial government need to start dealing with the nitty gritty issues, which all revolve around the right of students to get a good education. Meaningful dialogue needs to begin immediately.