Striking B.C. teachers rally at Vancouver Art Gallery
Union leaders say one-day strike next week still possible
Hundreds of striking B.C. teachers gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Wednesday afternoon for a final protest rally before returning to work.
The B.C. Teachers Federation says the provinces 41,000 teachers will be back in the classrooms on Thursday, but will continue their previous job action and could exercise their right to strike again next week.
The teachers walked out Monday to protest the government's back-to-work legislation, which was introduced in the legislature last week. Elsewhere in the province, teachers are expected to gather outside schools to protest Bill 22 on Wednesday.
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert told the crowd gathered at the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery the bill would remove teachers' collective bargaining rights until June 2013.
"I think it's either very cynical politics or maybe they're gaining some remarkable insight, because of course, they're government in freefall," she said.
"The likelihood of this government surving to June 2013 resembles that of the proverbial snowflake in hell."
Unclear if strike will continue
Lambert has not said if the teachers will walk out again next week, but promised they will give 48 hours notice if they do.
"We always give parents adequate notice of anything we do. All the time that is our commitment to parents," said Lambert.
"We understand that parents value the work we do and want to know what they need to do to support us and so we will always give parents adequate notice of what we do."
Lambert says teachers will continue their previous job action when they resume work on Thursday, which includes not filling out report cards, supervising recess and meeting with school administrators.
The government has said it could be a week or more before Bill 22 is passed into law. The legislation is designed to end the teachers' legal strike action and appoint a mediator to settle the contract dispute.
Until the legislation is passed, teachers will be able to strike one day a week, according to a recent ruling by the Labour Relations Board.
The teachers have been without a contract since June and began job action in September. Key issues in the contract dispute include wage increases, class sizes and support for special needs students.
On Tuesday, several thousand teachers and their supporters gathered for a massive rally in front of the legislature in Victoria.