Teachers vote to strike

BCTF announces three-day strike action will start on Monday

Dozens of teachers lined Cheam Avenue in Agassiz on Monday after school

Teachers voted in favour of a full-scale, three-day strike on Thursday morning. The BCTF said that teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of the strike, which will run Monday through Wednesday next week.

The decision followed a long week of escalated activity surrounding the teachers.

Monday was a day of action for B.C.’s public school teachers, after months of failed negotiations with their employer. Many teachers arrived at work five minutes before class time, and left five minutes after the last bell, as a one-day show of force. They then hit the streets in communities across the province, carrying placards and encouraging honks from passersby.

And that was no different in Agassiz and Hope, said Lynne Marvell, president of the Fraser-Cascade Teachers’ Association.

“We had a very good turnout,” she said, drawing out between 60 and 70 per cent of the district’s teachers. “That’s probably higher than most areas.”

There are about 120 teachers in School District 78, covering 12 schools from Boston Bar to Harrison Hot Springs.

Marvell attended the Agassiz event, and said she was “really heartened” by the number of drivers who honked and waved. Marvell said the biggest concern is “an unwillingness of the government to negotiate.”

Other issues include class size and composition. The larger a class is, she said, the more diverse the needs of the students are.

Throughout the school year, teachers have been on limited job action. While classes have been in session, teachers are not reporting to administration or writing formal report cards.

“Teachers would prefer to be engaging in a meaningful mediation process to resolve this dispute rather than escalating it,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “But given the government’s ongoing refusal to meet us half way, we’re compelled to try to increase the pressure on both our employer and government.”

Meanwhile, the provincial government looked to expedite the Education Improvement Act, introduced Tuesday afternoon by George Abbott, minister of education. It includes the imposition of a “cooling off period,” a mediator to facilitate bargaining, and the implementation of a new $165-million Learning Improvement Fund.

If the bill is passed, the LRB ruling will be null and void, and the bill will be the law of the day. That could take a week or longer to pass through legislature.

Abbott said Thursday it is up to teachers whether they refuse to work for one, two or three days next week. Schools will be open, and it’s up to parents if they want to send children to school, he said.

The LRB ruling prohibits picket lines, allowing unionized support staff to go to work. Administrators will supervise students, but normal instruction will not take place.

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Read Tom Fletcher’s report on today’s announcement.