British Columbia

B.C. teachers vote 90% for strike mandate

B.C. teachers have voted overwhelmingly to give their union a strike mandate, meaning the union could take job action when classes resume in September if contract negotiations are not settled.

B.C. teachers have voted overwhelmingly to give their union a strike mandate, meaning the union could take job action when classes resume in September if contract negotiations are not settled.

Susan Lambert, the president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, says teachers voted 90 per cent in favour of a strike mandate in the vote, which wrapped up on Tuesday.

B.C. teachers could take job action in September is contract negotations are not settled, the BCTF says. (CBC)

The BCTF and the province have been trying to hammer out a contract for several months.  The teachers say their issues are class sizes, adequate support levels, and salaries.

Lambert says if there's no significant progress in those contract talks by the time school starts up again in September, there will be some kind of job action.

"If the school year starts without progress in bargaining, we are going to take in September some action to put more pressure on the table, and that means we are going to focus on teaching," she said.

"What we won't be doing is a lot of the administrative tasks that have added to our workload over the years," she said.

"Teachers won't be doing staff meetings; teachers won't be collecting the data, filling out forms, doing supervision. Teachers won't be doing formal report cards, but they will be maintaining close communications with parents about the progress of their students," she said.

Negotiations tough, says education minister

B.C. Minister of Education George Abbott says he is concerned by the strike mandate, but not surprised, given the difficulty of the negotiations.

"It was a difficult bargaining environment when we started discussions a couple of months ago. It remains a difficult bargaining environment today and it will continue to be a difficult bargaining environment," said Abbott.

The government's position that there will be no wage increases for public sector workers is a key sticking point, says Abbott.

"Net zero is a tough thing to bargain through, but that's the situation that confronts the province as it continues to have a deficit and continues to come out of recession," he said.