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The steps leading to full bargaining rights

1. In 1872, the initial Public Schools Act for B.C. contained few rights for teachers. Teachers were organized into Teacher Institutes that were dominated by government officials. Barg. Rights 
2. In 1917 the B.C. Teachers’ Federation was formed with original objectives of dealing with the economic, professional and social concerns of teachers. Teacher salaries at this time were determined by lists developed by school boards. There was no pay equity for women of for teachers working at elementary level as opposed to the secondary level. Barg. Rights
3. In 1919, the first teacher strike in what was then the British Empire took place in Victoria, B.C. It was over salaries, involved 178 teachers and lasted two days. The result was a negotiated settlement. This resulted in the establishment of a Ministry of Education (Education has previously been handled by the Provincial Secretary), and a process of arbitration for resolving salary matters. Barg. Rights
4. Two years later in 1921, the New Westminster Board chose not to accept an arbitration award and a teacher strike ensued. It lasted for a week and had virtually unanimous support of the 86 teachers in New Westminster (only two reported for work). It’s important to note that there was no bargaining legislation at this time governing teachers. There were no general provisions for sick leave, maternity leave, and preparation time. Therefore, the early solidarity of teachers acting together set the stage for future collective bargaining. Barg. Rights 
5. Ongoing attempts by teachers to obtain a system of bargaining collectively finally resulted in government establishing a binding arbitration process for locals and boards to deal with salaries. The Langley Teachers’ Association, in 1939 led by their president Connie Winter, invoked the new arbitration process. The trustees refused to accept the arbitrator’s award and proceeded to fire all the teachers. After an appeal to a Board of Reference provided for in the School Act reinstated the teachers, the Board force transferred them resulting in demotions for the LTA leaders. The government fired the school board, appointed an official trustee and the arbitration award honored. Barg. Rights
6. As teachers organized through the BCTF, they began to push for a common salary grid based on certification and experience. This was not to be fully achieved until the 1950s when discrimination against women teachers and differentiation’s amongst the elementary, junior secondary and senior secondary levels was eliminated. And along the way to this goal, teachers: Salary
Pay Equity
  1. Took a province wide strike vote over salaries in 1943. It passed by a 57% vote in favor, but was never acted upon because the Federal government brought in a national wage freeze.
  2. Joined the Trades and Labour Congress by a vote at the 1943 AGM. This affiliation lasted until 1956 when the Canadian Labour Congress was formed and the AGM that year narrowly rejected affiliation.
  3. Lobbied and pressed for a decent teacher pension plan. It wasn’t until 1961 that the basic formula still in effect that calculates pension on service, age at retirement and final salary was introduced.
  4. Instituted through the BCTF, in 1939, a salary indemnity plan.
  5. Established a Code of Ethics when statutory membership in the BCTF was enacted by the legislature in 1949. The Labour connections gained through TLC affiliation had been helpful in obtaining compulsory membership. Voluntary sigh-up had netted a 93% result.
7. The sixties saw numerous campaigns by teachers to have class sizes reduced. The 1967 AGM declared: “The BCTF will support morally and financially any teacher who is advised by the BCTF or local to refuse to teach a regular class of 40 or more pupils.” In December 1968, mass actions by Vancouver teachers led to a first Learning and Working Conditions contract by August of 1969. Several other locals were able to obtain similar WLC agreements over the next few years, but Boards were not required to negotiate working conditions with teachers. Conditions covered in these agreements were often not enforceable. But it was significant step down the road to full collective bargaining for teachers. Class Size 
8. In 1971, teachers made the attainment of improvements in their pensions plan a primary objective. With an 88% mandate in an October 1970 membership vote, the leadership was authorized to call a strike of all teachers to obtain the pension improvements they sought. While government did introduce many desired changes, they did not improve the pension situation for retired colleagues so after much negotiation and lobbying, B.C. teachers, on March 19, 1971 took their first province wide job action. Partly in retaliation, government removed mandatory BCTF membership from statute in 1971. Out of 22,000 members at the time, only 69 refused to voluntarily join the BCTF. Government also put a 6.5% ceiling on grants to school boards undercutting the average 7.5% salary increase being awarded teachers through arbitration. Teachers played a major role in the 1972 provincial election through a Teacher Political Action Committee and a new government reinstated compulsory membership and other teachers sought changes. Pensions
Political Action Barg./
Union Rights
9. The BCTF continued with its initiatives to obtain reduced class sizes in the province’s public schools. In 1974, Surrey teachers led by their president Lloyd Edwards, walked off the job, traveled to Victoria and protested on the class size issue. This pressured the government of the day to negotiate with the BCTF a commitment to reduce the Pupil Teacher Ratio in the province by one in each of the next three years. This had a dramatic impact on class sizes as the PTR went from 22.68 in 1972/73 to 16.70 in 1981/82 and thousands of new teachers were added to the school system. Class Size
Surrey Strike
10. The leadership of the BCTF was determined to gain full bargaining rights for B.C. teachers. At the 1980 and 1981 AGMs, teachers made a priority out of expanding the scope of teacher bargaining. It was limited by legislation that required Boards of Trustees to negotiate only salaries and bonuses with teacher locals. Negotiations took place between October 1 and November 15 each year. If an agreement was not reached by November 15, compulsory arbitration was invoked. If locals could pressure their boards to negotiate working conditions of process items then they were included in the agreement. Arbitration boards, however, would only award salary and bonus items. The BCTF developed public strategies to influence school board budgets through budget presentations, established a unilateral WLC grievance procedure, held a commission on Kindergarten class size in Surrey and fully supported locals prepared to push for an expansion of their scope of bargaining. Barg. Rights
Political Action
11. In the spring of 1981 things were heating up in the Terrace local where 19 personnel issues were creating a united local prepared to act in support of satisfactory resolutions. After considerable discussion and pressure from teachers, Terrace teacher president, Wayne Wyatt led teachers out on a six-day strike on June 12, 1981. The result was a Personnel Practices agreement. This success would be used as a springboard for the major “expanded scope” campaign that fall. Terrace Strike
Barg. Rights
12. Buoyed by the ability of Terrace teachers to achieve an agreement through action, teacher locals across the province engaged in a wide range of public relations, political action and job action in the fall of 1981 and made significant gains in areas like elementary preparation time, elimination of noon supervision, personnel process provisions, leaves of absence provisions, professional development improvements and grievance procedures. On top of this, teachers got a 17% salary increase. It was little wonder then, with this success, that they turned sown a proposition from the Executive Committee in a referendum vote in February of 1982 to support a call for legislation that would give locals the option of opting for strike action or arbitration. Teachers, by a 60-40 vote said they were not looking for the right to strike. Political Action
Barg. Rights
13. Within days of the referendum results being announced, the Social Credit government of the day initiated a major restraint program. Over the next few years this would result in major cutbacks in education spending causing the pupil Teacher Ratio to increase and salary increases to be controlled by a commissioner. Class Size
The BCTF formed the Defend Education Services Coalition (DESC) with school support workers, college instructors and post secondary students. A year later, in July of 1983, the government introduced 26 bills into the legislature that were intended to restructure labour relations, human rights and social spending in B.C. Political Action 
The TF joined with the B.C. Federation of Labour and other unions in forming Operation Solidarity—a united labour front to fight the legislation. The BCTF also played a key role in Solidarity Coalition, and organization that united labour with community and social action groups, also committed to defeating the legislation. By August, the solidarity initiatives had resulted in over 20,000 people massed in Empire Stadium in opposition to the government’s legislative package. Political Action
(Operation Solidarity)
In mid October, 80,000 citizens protested on the streets of Vancouver. At the summer conference that year, teacher leaders from around the province conducted “Streetcorner Schoolhouses” throughout Vancouver, educating people to the negative effects of the legislation on education. Political Action 
14. By the fall of 1983, it was clear that the Bennett government was going to proceed with enacting its legislation. One particularly offensive piece of legislation (Bill 3) would allow for the dismissal of public employees (including teachers) without cause. Other unionized public employees had seniority and severance provisions to guide layoffs. Teachers had none. When last minute attempts by the BCTF to negotiate a seniority/severance agreement in North Vancouver were scuttled by the provincial government, teachers across B.C. walked off the job onto picked lines on November 8, 1983. Bill 3
There was strong support for the action, even though the province wide vote to mandate the action received only 60% of teacher support. The teacher action was part of a planned much larger action by the labour movement leading to a general strike. Teachers were out for three days when Operation Solidarity negotiated a resolution with government. Although nothing prevented boards from negotiating seniority/severance provisions before the strike, there was now an expectation that all locals would secure such a provision on strikes in schools by support staff was to report to work but to not do the work of support staff. At the 1984 AGM, the BCTF adopted a policy to honour all duly constituted picket lines.
15. The solidarity experience made teachers more adamant about achieving full bargaining rights. The BCTF established a Bargaining and Professional Rights Task Force that called for the establishment of full bargaining rights for B.C. teachers including the right to strike. Barg. Rights 
16. Then, on April 1, 1987, Premier Bill Zalm’s government introduced two pieces of legislation known as Bills 19 and 20 which were to have a major impact on the BCTF and teacher bargaining. Barg. Rights 
(Bills 19, 20) 
An end to the denial of basic bargaining rights for teachers was contained in an amendment to the Industrial Relations Act which eliminated the restriction on teachers being considered as employees under the act. Other changes to the IRA restricted rights already enjoyed by the rest of the labour movement and the B.C. Federation of Labour launched a major assault on Bill 10, Bill 20 eliminated compulsory membership for teachers, took principals and vice-principles out of our bargaining unit and created a College of Teachers. This legislation was viewed by teachers as an attempt to split the BCTF and on April 28, 1987 B.C. teachers closed schools and held study sessions in every community in the province to protest this assault on their organization. On June 1, 1987, B.C. teachers acted in solidarity with the rest of the labour movement and participated in a general strike to protest Bills 19 and 20. Strike 
17. The legislation required teacher locals to decide whether or not to choose the union model with the right to strike or to opt for the association model with limited access to resolution rights. Teachers in all 75 districts chose the union option and in a massive voluntary sign up of members, 98% to 99% of all teachers in B.C. joined the BCTF. Barg./ Union Rights 
Task forces on membership, PSAs, and the College of Teachers helped restructure the BCTF. Meanwhile the organization mobilized its energies to prepare for the first round of what was close to full and free collective bargaining.
18. In 1988, trained and co-ordinated by the BCTF, locals went to the bargaining table for the first time as equals to their employers. Barg. Rights 
The first strike under the new legislation took place in Kitimat beginning on November 28, 1988 and lasted for 10 days. Twelve other locals took strike action in the first round and two-faced lockouts by their boards. And the results were impressive. Teachers went to the table with the expectation of continuing what they had in previous agreement, replacing items that had been covered in legislation and were no longer with contract provisions and writing into contract language the policies and practices of school districts. Kitimat Strike 
They met these expectations and achieved much more, negotiating class size provisions in many districts and a healthy salary increase. Class Size 
Round one was a wonderful victory for teachers. They were using their newly acquired rights to overturn decades of unilateral actions by boards.
19. Round two was also successful for teachers. Legislative changes by government necessitated new provisions in agreements and locals negotiated them. More locals got class size provisions and many gained language dealing with class composition. Teachers again used their right to strike, 17 locals taking strike action and one, Southern Okanagan, locked out for a second time. This round also saw the longest teacher strike ever in Peace River North lasting 37 days. By the time round three came about, the economic environment had changed. Teachers were less united around the need to strike, and government legislated Surrey and Vancouver teachers back to work in the spring of 1993. Class Size Strikes 
20. One year later, in March of 1994, the provincial government introduced the Public Education Labour Relations Act, imposing provincial bargaining on teachers. The BCTF was to become the bargaining agent for all public school teachers in B.C. and a new structure, the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association was created to bargain for school boards. All matters that had a cost to them were to be negotiated provincially while non-cost matters could be negotiated locally. The BCTF opposed the legislation and then established interim structures to take it through the first round of provincial bargaining. Barg. Rights 
21. In May of 1996, with the assistance of the provincial government, the BCTF and BCPSEA achieved a “transitional agreement” which rolled over the provisions that were contained in previous local agreements. Some provincial language was negotiated, including a grievance procedure and a harassment provision. Barg. Rights 
22. In April of 1998, the BCTF negotiated an agreement directly with the provincial government, including reductions in class size at the K-3 level, staffing ratios for non-enrolling teachers and improvements in TOC pay and provisions. BCPSEA would not ratify the agreement and government introduced it as legislation. School Boards through BSPSEA have been attempting to use provincial bargaining to roll back provisions and improvements made by teachers through local bargaining. So far, the BCTF has not only resisted that erosion but has successfully negotiated improvements. Barg. Rights 
23. The Liberal opposition had campaigned on a platform of bringing K-12 education under the essential services legislation of the Labour Code. Following their election in May of 2001, they passed essential services legislation  in August 2001. The third round of provincial bargaining in 2001 began, therefore, under a legislative threat to the ability of teachers to engage in strike action. At the same time, school boards, through the employers’ association, brought an aggressive agenda of contract-stripping to the provincial table. They sought the removal of all terms and provisions concerning the ratio of non-enrolling teachers such as counsellors and teacher-librarians and serious erosion of the class size language of the agreement. Essential Services 
24. Negotiations were quickly stalled. After a strike vote of 93%, teachers began a limited form of job action in the Fall of 2001 such as withdrawal from extra-curricular activities and restrictions on administrative tasks. The employer and the Federation spent many days before the Labour Board arguing over what would or would not be permitted under the Code as plans to increase the job actual to actual withdrawal of teaching service were being considered. Job Action 
25. Throughout bargaining government ministers frequently threatened to impose a contract on teachers. On January 18, 2002, while speaking at the Truck Loggers’ convention, the Premier set a deadline of Friday, January 25, when an agreement must be reached or the legislature would impose a contract on teachers. Premier threatens
26. On January 27, 2002, the government acted on the threat. Two pieces of legislation were passed which imposed a collective agreement on teachers and gave the employers their entire bargaining agenda and more. Bill 28, Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, stripped away any and all provisions concerning non-enrolling teachers as well as language concerning class size and composition including the language governing the inclusion of students with special needs. A companion piece of legislation, Bill 27, Education Services Collective Agreement Act, imposed a 7.5% salary increase over three years and eliminated ten local teacher agreements in school districts which had previously been amalgamated in 1996 where the local unions had preserved their separate agreements. Imposed
27. While the government mandated a 7.5% increase, it provided funding for only the first year’s increase and froze the K-12 budget at 2001 levels for the three-year term of the contract. Thus school districts found themselves doing the dirty work of government. Forty-four schools were forced to close across the province and layoffs reduced the teaching force by some 2,000. The flexibility long sought by school districts thus became the flexibility to determine how the system should be dismantled. Funding Crisis 
28. The BCTF responded to the crisis brought about by government by adopting a “Public Education Advocacy Plan.” This three-year plan of action includes the creation of broad coalitions to defend and promote public education, especially in the area of funding. BCTF Action 
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