This week will be the testing ground for whether the province’s back-to-work legislation has sufficiently cowed teachers across the province.
Members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation — including over 250 Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union (KCTU) members — will be voting today and Wednesday on their action plan in response to the province passing Bill 22, legislating them back to work late last month.
Although the tenets of the teacher’s action plan are confidential and remain in committee, they will be made public on the day the voting results are tabulated, said KCTU representative Andy Davidoff.
“I really don’t know which way it is going to go,” he said about the vote.
“I guess we’ll see what the membership will decide to do and then it will get interesting after that.”
Some information is available online on what possible strategy the teachers are considering, including stopping all voluntary activities, holding a vote on a province wide strike and working to defeat the Liberals in the May 2013 provincial election.
The strategy includes continuing to teach, but not participate in any BC Ministry of Education initiatives, and agree to write a single year-end report card for each student this year.
If accepted, the teachers will launch a public campaign — including advertising, public meetings, and print material — to educate about the impact of Bill 22, and mobilize opposition to it around the province.
As well, they could still hold a future province-wide vote of members to support a full withdrawal of services commencing on a date as determined by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation executive committee.
Many teachers are demoralized because they feel the province does not respect them, said Davidoff. He called the Education Improvement Act (Bill 22) “draconian” and contained some harsh provisions built into it for any acts that contravene legislation, including a $475 per day fine for each teacher.
He expected the government would enforce those provisions if teachers contravened any portions of the act.
A legal overturn of the government-appointed mediator, Charles Jago, is being mounted. Davidoff said the BCTF is contending Jago is not an independent mediator, he has no labour relations training, and he participated in writing Bill 22.
As a result, they have gone to the Labour Relations Board and have tried to have him removed.
“How could somebody that wrote the legislation mediate a settlement between the teachers and the province? It just doesn’t seem fair,” said Davidoff.
The hearing is pending.