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Teachers rally in Masset, Queen Charlotte

by Heather Ramsay--Teachers from across the islands and the province held rallies Friday proclaiming their intention to continue their illegal strike in the face of the latest legal decision.
Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown ruled Thursday that the BC Teachers' Federation cannot use any of its assets, including its offices, faxes or website to further this illegal action. The ruling says the union cannot pay teachers for the strike action and the courts have frozen their $14-million bargaining fund.
Among the 50 people gathered in front of GM Dawson in Masset were members of five different unions, the BC Nurses' Union, CUPE, BCGEU and the Retail and Wholesale Union and the BCTF.
Duncan White, president of the Queen Charlotte District Teachers' Association, told the crowd that teachers learned a big lesson last time, referring to the job action that took place in 2002 after their last legislated contract.
Teachers were also ready to support the Hospital Employees Union when they were legislated back to work in 2004, but the HEU backed down.
They are not backing down until a negotiated settlement is reached. Many at the rally said they would continue striking whether they were paid or not.
"I will not be intimidated into accepting something that is no longer tolerable," said Lorrie Joron, a teacher at G. M. Dawson. She says gym classes are packed with 36 students, an unsafe situation.
CUPE members from the Village of Masset stood at the rally in support of the teachers. They have been without a collective agreement for two years and they said they would be here anyway.
Other CUPE members who work in the schools voiced their concerns about special education funding. They are not crossing the picket lines, and are losing out on their pay as well.
"Kids who used to get funded don't get funded anymore. They need one-on-one help," said one woman.
More than 25 school boards across BC have passed motions urging the government to negotiate with teachers.
Mr. White told the people gathered at the Masset rally that he had asked the board to discuss this topic. Mr. White was told the matter would be referred to the agenda setting committee.
Vice-chair Wayne Wilson said the board had not met since the strike started and referred the Observer's question about whether the board would discuss making a resolution about the teachers' strike to superintendent Mike Woods.
In Queen Charlotte, about 85 people turned out Friday at 4:30 pm at the teachers' rally in front of the school board office.