By Heather Ramsay–Teachers on the islands and in the rest of BC will be on strike Wednesday, but it will be such a low-key affair that neither parents or students likely won’t even notice it.
Teachers want to keep their job action from impacting parents and children as much as they can, according to Duncan White, president of the Queen Charlotte District Teachers’ Association.
The strike, which starts Wednesday in schools across the province, is designed to place pressure on the employer, but maintain regular classroom instruction and voluntary extra-curricular activities.
In the first two weeks, teachers will not supervise students before school, at lunch and at recess. They will not attend meetings with administrators, nor file attendance records.
A total of 88.4-percent of 42,000 teachers voted yes in the province-wide strike vote according to the BC Teachers’ Federation.
The BCTF, which represents public school teachers across the province, has three demands says Mr. White.
One is a 15-percent salary increase over three years. The second is full restoration of bargaining rights taken away in the legislated contract in 2002 and the third, to restore learning conditions taken away in the last contract.
The government removed class size limits, ratios for special education students per class, numbers of learning assistants, teacher-librarians and more.
Mr. White says in the school district here, the impact of these changes is seen in the composition of classes.
“The number of special needs in classes has shot up, with no extra support,” he says.
“It is time consuming and stressful to deal with classes like that, but also demoralizing.”
The limited action strike will escalate to rotating strikes starting October 11 and a full-scale walkout on October 24 if there is no progress made at the bargaining table, says Mr. White.
To complicate matters further, these plans may have to change.
Thanks to legislation brought down in 2001, which deemed teachers an essential service, the Labour Relations Board is involved in the dispute.
Mr. White says BC is the only province in Canada that deems its teachers an essential service.
Normally the designation is for professions like firefighters, police and emergency workers where there would be imminent danger to the population with a disruption in service, he says.
The LRB has been asked to rule which teachers’ services are essential and the ruling is expected this week.
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