Citing a lack of meaningful progress at the bargaining table, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker has announced his union is issuing 72 hours strike notice, but that job action will be confined to a teacher withdrawal of administrative service.
Iker says the job action will begin Wednesday April 23 and could escalate to rotating strikes unless the government comes "prepared to negotiate."
"Our patience is running out," he told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver.
In a statement, the BCTF outlined the first phase of job action, stating teachers would not:
- Undertake any mandated supervision of students outside of regularly scheduled classes, except as set out by an essential services order.
- Attend any meetings with management other than meetings of the worksite Joint Health and Safety Committee.
- Provide principals or administrators with any routine printed, written, or electronic communication.
- Receive any printed, written, or electronic communication from an administrator.
- Be at a worksite prior to one hour before commencement of instructional time and one hour after the end of instructional time, other than for pre-arranged voluntary activities.
Iker says teachers are not prepared to accept a 10-year term for a new collective agreement, or certain other conditions government is refusing to remove from the bargaining table.
"Teachers will not accept the re-stripping of our rights to class size and class composition," he said. "We believe these ratios are best based on the collective agreement and not in government regulation."
Eighty-nine per cent of teachers who cast ballots voted in favour of job action during three days of polling at the start of the month, but an all-out strike is not expected anytime soon.
Education minister not surprised
Education Minister Peter Fassbender says there has been virtually no movement by the BCTF at the bargaining table.
"It's a little disappointing but not at all surprising," he said. Over the past few weeks, it appears the BCTF has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table."
Fassbender says the employer will respond to the BCTF's job action "in an appropriate and principled manner to put commensurate pressure on the union."
"This time around, with the BCTF also feeling pressure to reach an agreement, we hope both sides will be equally motivated to find solutions at the table, rather than letting the BCTF's strike drift on indefinitely."
The relationship between the B.C. government and teachers has been contentious for more than a decade. In 2001, the province passed legislation that stripped teachers of their right to negotiate class size, class composition and staffing levels.
Last April, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the legislation was unconstitutional and gave the province one year to restore teachers' collective bargaining rights. When the government failed to do so, however, it was fined $2 million in damages.