The provincial government is legislating an end to the teachers’ strike, and it was not clear as we went to press Tuesday what response teachers would make.
An emergency teachers’ meeting was planned on the islands for late Wednesday to vote on a plan recommended by the teachers’ union, says Duncan White president of the Queen Charlotte District Teachers’ Association. He would not tell us what that plan is.
The legislation, Bill 12, proposes to extend the teachers’ contract, which expired on June 30, 2004, until June 30, 2006. The bill went through first reading in the house on Monday and is expected to be passed by the end of the week.
This imposed settlement doesn’t address any of the teachers’ demands, says Mr. White.
Teachers began job action September 30 demanding a raise in salary over three years. They are also demanding the return of certain collective bargaining rights taken away when the province legislated their last contract in 2002.
Teachers want limits to class sizes and support for special needs students in their contracts.
The teachers’ employer, the BC Public School Employers’ Association is unable to come to the table on these demands due to the mandate it’s been given by the government, says Mr. White.
Minister of Labour Mike de Jong said a fact-finder’s report confirmed there was no hope of getting to a negotiated settlement in this round of bargaining.
The parties have already met 35 times with no success.
He says the legislation will allow time for an Industrial Inquiry Commission to develop a new bargaining process.
Mr. White sees the government’s move as a way to avoid making a decision.
“Taking a legislative approach is upsetting and frustrating for the teachers,” says Mr. White.
Teachers, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action, feel they have fallen behind the salary levels of teachers in other provinces. With this new legislation, they will continue to fall behind.
“They have side-stepped making a decision and are forcing us to continue the way we are,” Mr. White adds. “It can only make things worse.”
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