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1917 – 2005 Gaining Bargaining Rights

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.

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1919 Victoria Strike

1919 Victoria Strike image

The first teachers' strike in the British Empire occurred in Victoria in 1919. One hundred and seventy-eight teachers refused to work for two days over a salary dispute. When the Provincial Secretary refused to intervene on the behalf of the school board, a negotiated settlement ensued.

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1921 New Westminster Strike

1921 New Westminster strike image

New Westminister teacher salaries were determined by arbitration in 1921, but the school board refused to accept the award and instead chose to draft a list of each teacher's name with a salary beside it. The teachers struck. Out of 86 teachers, only two broke ranks and showed up for work.

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1939 Langley Affair

1939 Langley Affair image thumbIn 1939, the Langley school board refused to implement an arbitrated salary award. Forty Langley teachers led by Connie Jervis and supported by the BCTF took on the school board and other community leaders in their struggle to have the salary award implemented. 

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1967 Over 40 Campaign

1967-02 Teacher Newsletter cover

In 1967, the AGM launched the Federation’s Over 40 Campaign. The campaign was an extensive and long term public relations action to improve teaching and learning conditions. The short term objective was to reduce class sizes. The BCTF vowed to support teachers who refused to accept classes of 40 or more by paying their full salaries if they took such action. By 1969 Vancouver teachers achieved a Learning and Working Conditions contract with their board, and shortly after Burnaby teachers reached an agreement to negotiate a similar contract with their board.

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1969 Working and Learning Conditions Contracts

1969 Vancouver teacher contact article 

In the late 1960s, teachers in British Columbia began to raise concerns about poor learning conditions for students and poor working conditions for teachers. At the time, teachers bargained locally but the law prohibited strikes and provided for bargaining only salaries and bonuses. Many terms and conditions of work for teachers were contained in the School Act, other legislation or regulation, or determined unilaterally by school boards. Teachers were legally prevented from bargaining class sizes and other learning and working conditions.

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1971 Walkout for Pensions

1971 Walkout for newsletter image

On March 19, 1971, BC teachers launched a campaign to improve the pensions of retirees by participating in their first provincial withdrawal of service.  A year later, prompted in part by the government’s failure to deal with pension improvements, BC teachers participated actively in the provincial election. The result was that the NDP government defeated the Socreds and introduced changes to improve teacher pensions. 

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1974 Surrey Walkout to Protest Large Classes

1974 Surrey protest article thumb

In 1974, Surrey teachers walked out of their classrooms and traveled to Victoria to protest large class sizes. Subsequently the BCTF negotiated an agreement with government to hire thousands of additional teachers across the province over several years to dramatically reduce the pupil-teacher ratio. 

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1981 A Cross Burning

Operation Solidary rally photoTen years that changed it all. From a cross burning to class size in contract.

Late October, 1981 at 2:30 a.m., the phone rang loudly, waking me from a deep sleep. Rattled by the call, I was horrified to see a huge wooden cross burning on our front lawn. The police arrived an hour later; their subsequent investigation turned up no answers.

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1981 Terrace 6-Day Strike

1981 Terrace strike clip

A six-day strike in Terrace in June 1981 resulted in the local negotiating a number of important personnel practices into their contract, as well as the first teacher grievance procedure in the province and the very first class size maxima provisions for teachers. The strike and agreement in Terrace paved the way for a number of other locals to bargain “expanded scope” items into their collective agreements in the fall.

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1983 3-Day Solidarity Strike for Seniority Rights

1983-11 Port Moody Junior Secondary picket line

In July 1983, the provincial government tabled 26 pieces of legislation that together constituted the most significant assault on human, social, and workers’ rights and the social-safety net that had been seen in Canada to that point. The Solidarity Coalition and Operation Solidarity were formed and the BCTF was a key participant. 

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1987 Bills 19 & 20

1987 rally imageIn 1985, the Federation launched a Charter challenge claiming that the denial of full bargaining rights for teachers was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, in 1987 the provincial Social Credit government passed Bills 19 and 20, giving teachers full bargaining rights at the local level, including the right to strike, but removing statutory membership in the BCTF. 

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1988 Full Scope Local Bargaining

1988 strike image

Beginning in 1988 the BCTF engaged in three rounds of local bargaining under the full collective bargaining model, dramatically changing the very nature of the organization and improving teachers’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions. Thirty-two local disputes led to strikes and three resulted in lockouts.

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1994 Provincial Bargaining

Bill 52, the Public Education Labour Relations Act, was enacted in June of 1994 by the NDP government of the day. The effect of the bill was to decertify all of our local bargaining units and impose a system of provincial bargaining on teachers. After 15 months of negotiations, and with the involvement of the provincial government, an agreement was reached in May of 1996, expiring in June of 1998. The key win for teachers was the continuation of the terms and conditions of employment negotiated locally. The second round of provincial bargaining resulted in  improvements in class size for primary classes, and staffing ratios for non-enrolling teachers.

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2001–2016 A Timeline

Defending bargaining rights at the table, in the streets, and in the courts.

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2002 Contract stripping

2002 rally photoImmediately following the election of a Liberal government in May 2001, Essential Services legislation for teachers was introduced. In the third round of provincial bargaining, in the fall of 2001, the BCTF took their first provincial strike vote.

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2004–05 Negotiations

Teachers were overwhelmingly united behind the three key bargaining objectives: improved learning conditions, restored bargaining rights, and a fair salary increase, with learning conditions being the top priority.

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2005 10-day Illegal Strike

2005 strike image

In the fall of 2005, and in response to the government’s imposition of another contract, the BCTF engaged in a two-week strike, deemed illegal by the courts. Teachers were united behind the three key objectives of a negotiated agreement: improved learning conditions, restored bargaining rights and a fair salary increase. 

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2006 Negotiated Collective Agreement

In June 2006, the Federation concluded a negotiated collective agreement, achieving significant improvements in salary.

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2012 3-Day Strike for a Negotiated Agreement

2012 Bill 22 rally photo

Bargaining began in February 2011, months before the 2006-11 collective agreement ran out. But after a year at the bargaining table with no progress, and facing government’s “net zero” bargaining mandate and further restrictive legislation, teachers voted 87% to withdraw services beginning in March of 2012. 

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2014 Strike and Lockout

2014 strike image

In December 2012, the BCTF and BCPSEA began discussions to prepare for bargaining a new collective agreement for the period July 1, 2013, onward. The discussions resulted in a draft Framework Agreement in which the parties agreed to an early start to bargaining, the use of a facilitator, and a process to expand provincial bargaining. Mark Brown was agreed to as the facilitator.

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2014 & 2015 Court Rulings

Legal teamJanuary 27, 2014 was an historic day for public education and labour rights in BC. The BC Supreme Court reaffirmed that provincial legislation limiting teachers’ bargaining rights was unconstitutional, restored collective agreement provisions stripped in 2002, and ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages plus court costs.

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2016 Supreme Court of Canada Victory

On a cold, sunny morning in Ottawa on November 10, 2016, the BCTF appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada in an attempt to have teachers’ collective bargaining rights and stripped collective agreement provisions reinstated. These rights and provisions were stripped in 2002 by the Liberal government of the day under Premier Gordon Campbell and Education Minister Christy Clark.  The BCTF had an hour to present its case, and the BC government had an hour to present its defense. The BCTF was testing the scope of its constitutional right to collective bargaining, and challenging the BC Court of Appeal’s overturning of a lower court’s ruling that the stripping of the teachers’ collective agreement, and prohibiting of collective bargaining on a variety of matters in the future, was substantial interference in fundamental collective bargaining rights. Before lunch, in an oral ruling from the Bench, the Supreme Court found in the BCTF’s favour. 

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2017 Restoration of Working and Learning Conditions

Following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on November 10, 2016, the BCTF met with government and BCPSEA to work out the logistics of the restoration of the provisions that were unconstitutionally stripped from the collective agreement in 2002. On January 5, 2017, agreement was reached that as an interim measure government would immediately provide school districts with $50 million in new funding to create 1,000–1,100 new FTE teaching positions for the balance of the 2016-17 school year. 

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