Teacher debate could last two weeks

Debate on a bill to force an end to the teacher strike could drag into next week.

B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman

VICTORIA – Unless teachers violate a Labour Relations Board ruling and extend their strike beyond Wednesday, the debate on legislation putting an end to their withdrawal of service could stretch into next week before it becomes law, B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman said Monday.

In weekend interviews, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert wouldn’t rule out teachers staying off the job beyond the three consecutive days granted by the LRB ruling on essential services.

The LRB ruling also allows for one day off the job in following weeks, but some B.C. school districts begin their two-week spring break the week of March 12.

Coleman said as long as the teachers’ union follows the LRB ruling, he sees no reason to accelerate passage of Bill 22, which carries the threat of heavy fines for further strike action by teachers once it is passed.

NDP house leader John Horgan said opposition MLAs will use the maximum time available to prevent passage of Bill 22, which would extend the current BCTF contract terms and permit the appointment of a mediator in the year-long dispute. NDP MLAs expect to speak for the maximum 17 hours they are permitted, which would likely extend the debate into next week.

Education Minister George Abbott said the three-day strike allows teachers to “vent” their hostility toward the government before returning to classrooms. Abbott says Bill 22 is complex, and it deserves a full debate. The legislation changes the rules for hiring teachers as well as dealing with class size and special needs support.

If the government had staged an emergency debate to push the bill through this past weekend, it could have inflamed tensions that are already running high and triggered an illegal strike, Abbott said.

The B.C. Federation of Labour announced plans on the weekend for a march of union members to the B.C. legislature on Tuesday.

“Bill 22 impacts all workers,” said B.C. Fed president Jim Sinclair. “When the right to free collective bargaining is under attack, all unions will stand together to defend that right.”

The BCTF has refused to accept the two-year “net zero” wage mandate that has been accepted by most other public sector unions. That includes public school support staff, whose members have ratified agreements in 24 school districts.

The most recent ratifications were in Rocky Mountain, Arrow Lakes, New Westminster, Burnaby and Gulf Islands districts, where employees agreed to accept no raise.

Just Posted

Comedy, chicken poop and dancing at Lytton Festival

This year’s festival will honour longtime supporter Shirley James

LETTER: Recreational angling has low-impact on Fraser salmon

Jason Tonelli writes about his displeasure at the call to close recreational fishing on the Fraser

Hope’s Wheeled Wild Women hit the road for cancer research

Group of friends ready for the 200-km bike trek that ends in Hope

PHOTOS: Paintings return to Kilby for fifth annual festival

The Plein Air Festival will be taking place at the historic site all weekend

Cougar spotted in Seabird Island

Residents are asked to report all sightings to conservation

Sts’ailes invites adults to become engaged in Halq’eméylem with new video series

‘Qw’oqwel te Qw’oqwel’ gives language learners an immersive way to learn Halq’eméylem

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read