BCTF Online Museum

1917 – 2005 Gaining Bargaining Rights

Collective bargaining is the method open to teachers to have influence on the conditions under which students learn and teachers work. When bargaining works, it is a process that allows key issues to be addressed in ways that are equitable and consistent. Because it produces an agreement between employees and employers, it incorporates compromises that provide for a stable relationship between teachers and boards of education.

Teachers fought hard to get the right to bargain collectively, a right that is guaranteed to all under the conventions of the International Labour Organization. Canada has agreed to these conventions and recognizing those rights is an obligation of all levels of government. Over the years that collective bargaining has existed for teachers in British Columbia, teachers have negotiated significant improvements for student learning conditions, as well as teacher conditions of work. BC teachers have consistently opposed government actions that would create worse classroom conditions and take away the rights of teachers to bargain.

When the BCTF was formed in 1917 teachers had no bargaining rights. The objectives of the new federation were to address the economic, professional and social concerns of teachers. In 1919 the first teacher strike took place in Victoria over the issue of salaries. It involved 178 teachers, it lasted 2 days, and it resulted in a negotiated settlement. In this video former BCTF presidents Ken Novakowski, Wes Janzen, Larry Kuehn, David Chudnovsky, Jinny Sims and former BCTF staffer Mavis Lowry recall the milestones in 9 decades of our fight for bargaining rights, improved salaries, smaller class sizes and better working conditions.

Standing up for public education, BCTF bargaining history

The steps leading to full bargaining rights

View a chronology of events and actions that led from the 1872 Public Schools Act for BC, to the formation of the BCTF in 1917, to BCTF Locals gaining full bargaining rights in 1987, to Locals being stripped of their bargaining agencies by the imposition of provincial bargaining in 1994, to the imposed restrictions on bargaining rights in 2002.