Teachers’ strike, week one

  • Oct. 11, 2005 3:00 p.m.

Teachers on the islands should be safe, but teachers’ union executives may face jail time due to the province-wide teachers’ strike, says Duncan White, president of the Queen Charlotte District Teachers’ Association.
The BC Supreme Court ruled Sunday that teachers are in contempt of court for disobeying a ruling deeming their strike illegal.
The penalty for contempt is up to the courts, but technically, teachers could be risking jail sentences, says Mr. White. The BC Teachers’ Federation finds out today (Thursday) whether fines and jail time are pending.
“They typically go after heads of the organization before going after teachers,” says Mr. White.
If the courts extend this to local union executives, Mr. White, the local union executive, is prepared to accept the consequences.
“Our aim is not to defy the law. We are taking a stand against injustice to the education system and the working people,” he says. Imagine the logistics of throwing 42,000 teachers in jail, he also said.
Teachers province-wide started striking Friday to show their anger over Bill 12, legislation that freezes their wages and extends their current contract until the end of the school year. They also want a cap on class size and a restoration of learning conditions for students included in their contracts.
The government is hiding behind the courts and is not addressing the real issues, according to Mr. White.
And he compares the fight to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. “There comes a point in people’s lives that the sheer injustice means you need to take a stand.”
Parents have scrambled to find child care for school-age children since Tuesday, the first day the strike had an impact here following the professional development day Friday and the long weekend.
Michelle Prouty of Skidegate says the strike is having a large effect on her family, because there are no full-time child care programs for her two older daughters.
She was lucky to be able to work from home for a few mornings, but she is heading off island so her husband will have to stay home to look after the girls. That means five days without pay for him.
Still, she fully supports the teachers in their job action.
“They are trying to make my children’s lives better,” she says.
As a Hospital Employees Union member, she understands what they are doing.
A 2004 HEU strike was brought on by an imposed contract and the union was fined $150,000 for defying back to work legislation, the largest fine levied against a trade union for contempt of court in B. C. history.
Meanwhile other labour leaders and unions have united behind the teachers and staged province-wide rallies on Tuesday.