B.C. teachers vote in favour of job action

Teachers across the province have voted 90 per cent in favour of initiating job action come September.

Teachers across the province have voted 90 per cent in favour of initiating job action come September.

A total of 28,128 teachers cast ballots in the five-day strike vote held between June 24 and 28.

According to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the vote is a show of force and indicates teachers are prepared to take action to achieve their goals. If no progress is made in bargaining by Sept. 6 parents and students can expect to see a continuation of teaching and extracurricular activities but a cessation of all administrative work.

Joan Erb, president of the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers’ Association, says the vote is a pressure tactic to get the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the bargaining agent for the government, negotiating seriously.

“It is unfortunate that we have to come to a point of taking a strike vote,” Erb says. “We went to the bargaining table in good faith and it’s unfortunate the government couldn’t come with the same good faith.”

The two sides have been meeting since March to discuss a new contract for the one that expires at the end of June.

Erb says one of the sticking points is negotiating and enshrining class size, composition and specialty ratios in the new contract. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the employer had until April 2012 to work it out. However, the teachers, says Erb, have argued that is in the middle of the school year and would like to “get something on the table” for September and work on it throughout the year.

Other issues, according to the BCTF, are protection of seniority, forced transfers, yearly evaluations for teachers, wages, benefits and prep time.

Erb says there are few issues to be bargained locally. The local teachers and School District 27 board recently agreed to a memorandum of agreement on a new staffing process including bumping. That will become part of a new collective agreement.

Pete Penner, a district trustee and board BCPSEA representative, says the relationship between the local board and teachers is good. He adds there has been some discussions between the two parties; however, Penner says there isn’t much the board can do in terms of negotiations as the board follows BCPSEA’s guidelines.

“So we haven’t been able to do very much,” Penner says. “We can do locally anything that doesn’t relate to finances.”

As for the possibility of job action come September, Penner says, “We hope that calmer heads will prevail and that we’ll be able to work something out. … If everybody is reasonable I think we can do that.”

At Tuesday’s school board meeting board chair Wayne Rodier said any strike action won’t affect operations as the administrative work around issues such as school staffing has already been completed.