British Columbia

Teachers' job action starts today at B.C. schools

Recess will be cancelled in several school districts across B.C. as the province's 41,000 public school teachers begin job action on Wednesday.

In some cases, cancelling recess could mean school day is shortened by 15 minutes

B.C. teachers union president Jim Iker wants recess restored 2:55

Recess will be cancelled in several school districts across B.C. as the province's 41,000 public school teachers begin job action on Wednesday.

The districts that have cancelled recess include:

  • Prince George
  • Quesnel
  • Prince Rupert
  • Arrow Lakes
  • North Okanagan-Shuswap
  • Central Okanagan
  • Qualicum
  • Coast Mountains
  • Bulkley Valley

Northern Vancouver Island School District had considered cancelling recess, but reconsidered.

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker says teachers will refuse to supervise students outside the classroom or communicate in writing with principals and other administrators.

Iker explained that voluntary activities in which teachers are involved will continue during the first phase of the planned job action, but some teachers' duties will be left to principals, vice-principals and other management.

Several B.C. school districts are cancelling the 15-minute-long recess break as teachers begin job action on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

In some cases, cancelling recess could mean the school day is shortened by 15 minutes.

But teachers will still be taking attendance, marking and assessing students, completing report cards, communicating with parents and participating in volunteer extracurricular activities.

Escalating job action planned

The withdrawal of non-essential duties is part of the first stage in a multi-level strike action that was announced by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) last week.

Their contracts expired last June, and the federation says it's being forced to take action because negotiations are slow.

Iker won't say how long the initial phase will last, but says the lack of progress at the bargaining table will lead to rotating strikes across the province, with 48 hours' notice.

Wages and class sizes have been a major stumbling block between teachers and the provincial government, leading up to Wednesday's job action.

The B.C Teachers' Federation wants to see smaller class sizes, and its president says members earn lower salaries than their colleagues in other provinces.

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender says research from around the world proves class size is not a prerequisite to student success.

He says the wage demands of teachers are also out of step with other unions in  the public sector.

Fassbender has said there has been virtually no movement at the bargaining table, adding that the BCTF appears to have been busier planning its strike action than resolving the labour dispute.

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.

In April 2011, 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.

The province says it is appealing that ruling, and has been granted an injunction delaying the restoration of teachers' pre-2001 bargaining rights until the appeal can be heard.

With files from Canadian Press


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