B.C.’s teachers are making a move on Wednesday that could bring an end to their bitter labour dispute with the Ministry of Education.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) will ask its 40,000 members to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to end the strike if the government agrees to a few very significant conditions.
First, BCTF is asking the ministry to dismiss the legal clause (Article E80) that gives the province control over classroom size and classroom composition and send the matter back to the court room to be resolved.
Second, all other points of contention must be settled by a third party and lead to legally binding decisions for both sides.
“Everything is shifting by the minute,” Andy Davidoff, president of Kootenay-Columbia Teachers’ Union told the Trail Times early Monday. “But the bottom line is I think we need to take the vote. This is a logical step to show the province that we want to be back in school, teaching our students.”
This latest development comes on the heels of the government rejecting the BCTF’s proposal to enter binding arbitration, with Minister of Education Peter Fassbender, saying that gives parents and teachers false hope that there is a simple way to resolve the conflict.
“This dispute needs to be settled at a bargaining table,” said Fassbender in a Saturday news release. “And I invite them again to lift their pickets while the parties work towards mediating an end to this dispute.”
Davidoff maintains that if the teachers’ vote affirmatively to end the strike, they’ll get back to class immediately while terms of the contract are being worked out both in the court room and in the hands of a third party.
“They keep talking about teachers blocking kids from going to the classroom,” he explained. “I think we’ve offered a process that can get kids back in school. The bottom line is, is the government willing to do what has to be done to make it happen.”
He said this “feels like deja vu” because what lies at the core of the disagreement is class size and class composition, which a B.C. Supreme Court judge twice ruled that the province violated teachers’ charter rights when it removed related clauses from their collective agreement in 2002.
“The key thing is if the government says no to binding arbitration or removing Article E80,” said Davidoff. “Then that shows they have an agenda that has nothing to do with getting kids back in class. It’s all about control.”