The 40,000 elementary and secondary school teachers in British Columbia have voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action.
The results of the ballot were released on June 29; the current collective agreement expired on June 30.
The actual strike action will not start until the next school term, which begins on September 6. If sufficient progress is not made at the bargaining table, teachers will refuse to do administrative work beyond their classroom activities.
In the words of British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Susan Lambert, “The government and the employers are offering nothing to teachers and at the same time demanding much from us in terms of massive concessions and trade-offs.”
Lambert assured parents that their children’s education would not suffer as a result of the proposed actions. “We’re looking forward to a year of joyful teaching and learning, without the distractions of ‘administrivia’ that can take so much time and energy from what we love to do best — teaching.”
In the BCTF’s view, several government bargaining initiatives create problems. Seniority would be eliminated in job postings; collective agreement provisions concerning “post and fill, layoff, transfer and assignment” would be eliminated; and current substitute teachers (Teachers Teaching on Call or TTOCs) would have to compete with external applicants for positions.
Other changes that would be made to evaluation also bother the BCTF. All teachers would be evaluated annually; teachers could be terminated based on a single evaluation; and due process would allegedly be removed from the process.
Some of the proposed changes flow from the government’s planned move to “personalized learning.” In addition, teachers are subject to the government’s “net-zero” salary cap.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, the government has extended until the end of the week the appointment of mediator Richard Hornung, who is working with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the school boards to hammer out a renewal for an agreement that expired at the end of August last year. His report was to have been delivered on June 30.
Prior to the appointment of Hornung, Saskatchewan’s 12,000 teachers had also been refusing to volunteer their time for extra-curricular activities.
The central issue dividing the parties is money.
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