If there is a lack of progress in collective bargaining, teachers across British Columbia will take a strike vote between June 24 and 28, 2011.
BCTF President Susan Lambert emphasized that teachers do not take this decision lightly. The vote, to be supervised by the Labour Relations Board, will determine whether teachers will launch province-wide collective action with the start of the next school year in September. Initially the job action would involve teachers’ refusal to undertake administrative tasks or to attend unnecessary meetings, while focusing all their energies on the classroom.
"If we need to take this action in the fall we will begin by focusing on the central and joyful work of our profession—teaching our students," Lambert said. "Parents may not even notice much of a change as teachers intend to continue serving our students in the classroom and communicating with parents about students’ progress. However, we will not be doing administrative work or attending meetings with management."
Lambert emphasized that teachers want to achieve a negotiated settlement. Although the BCTF and its locals have been bargaining since the beginning of March, progress so far has been limited. "We’re facing resistance at both local and provincial tables, with the BC Public School Employers’ Association stalling on the split of issues and local trustees refusing to bargain anything of substance," Lambert said.
Meanwhile, teachers have identified clear objectives for this round of bargaining. Their top priorities include: improving teaching and learning conditions (class size and composition, caseloads, learning specialist ratios, and time for class preparation), a fair and reasonable compensation package including benefit improvements commensurate with teachers across Canada, and a return to local bargaining as the best solution to local issues.
Lambert noted that negotiations are taking place in the wake of a BC Supreme Court decision that ruled Liberal legislation which stripped teachers’ contracts and limited their ability to bargain is unconstitutional. The BCTF is urging the government to immediately restore funding levels to make up for the $275 million which was cut every year since 2002, when the legislation was imposed.
"We believe that Premier Clark now has an opportunity to make her "families first" agenda real by restoring funding to schools and services to students this September. After a decade of deteriorating conditions, students should come back to school in September as beneficiaries of the ruling that restores teachers’ bargaining rights," Lambert said.