B.C. teachers' strike vote to be held in March
Jim Iker of the B.C. Teachers' Federation said the vote will take place the first week in March
The British Columbia Teachers' Federation announced on Tuesday teachers will take a strike vote in March.
BCTF president Jim Iker, who made the announcement at the BCTF's head offices in Vancouver around 10:30 a.m., said the strike vote will take place between March 4 and 6. If the vote passes, teachers will have 90 days to enact "some sort of job action."
"Teachers care deeply about our schools, our students, and our communities. We don’t take a strike vote lightly,” said Iker.
“However, this government seems incapable or unwilling to let the BC Public School Employers’ Association negotiate fairly with teachers. Christy Clark, her government, and BCPSEA are insisting on rollbacks, freezing wages, and ignoring the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”
Iker insisted that any initial job action, if necessary, will be minimal.
"Any initial action will not include immediate school closures or disruptions for our students. Nor will it have our teachers stop doing extra curricular actives. And it will not affect report cards or communication with parents," said Iker.
However, those options are not off the table if the job action escalates.
Strike vote over bargaining rights, salaries
In April 2013, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the province acted unconstitutionally when it enacted legislation that stripped teachers of certain bargaining rights, including those allowing them to negotiate class size, class composition, and staffing levels.
In January, the court ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages for failing to reinstate those rights within the 12 months it was given.
The following week, however, Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced the province would be appealing the court's decision.
On Tuesday, Iker said the government's decision to appeal "showed total disrespect for the law, for teachers, and for students."
"For 12 years teachers have worked to defend our rights, our working conditions, and our students’ learning conditions, and once again we find ourselves facing a government focused only on confrontation,” said Iker.
In addition to better working conditions, teachers are also asking for fair salaries. Iker said teachers are being asked to forgo wage increases for two years, despite salaries being frozen during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.
"Teachers are asking for an increase that addresses the rising cost of living and a market adjustment that reflects how far we are behind other teachers in Canada. We believe that’s fair and reasonable," he said.
Province reacts to news of strike vote
Fassbender was quick to react to news of the strike vote, saying he is "disappointed" because talks between the two sides are ongoing.
"Quite honestly, we didn't provoke anything. It is the teachers that are calling for a strike vote, not the government. We are at the table. We are asking them to stay at the table with us. But they've chosen to take this step," he said.
Last week, the B.C. New Democrats claimed they had "proof" the government was trying to provoke a full scale teachers' strike.
That alleged proof was a set of court transcripts, in which the province's chief negotiator Paul Straszak testified under oath about a conversation he had with Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister about the labour negotiations.
The province denies the accusations.