Children will not be putting down their books anytime soon.
Though teachers are threatening to strike come September, the president of the local teachers’ union said parents can rest assured this will not have an impact on student learning.
About 90 per cent of British Columbia’s public school teachers recently voted in favour of strike action, sending a strong message to the government after almost four months of bargaining failed to give them a new contract, it was announced Wednesday.
“The reason we’ve taken this action is because we’re appalled about what’s been proposed by our employer at both the provincial and local tables,” said Andrew Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.
“There’s been absolutely no progress being made provincially.”
If Phase 1 of their strike action moves ahead, teachers will refuse to do administrative tasks such as filling out forms, supervising and attending staff meetings.
“I think parents is this area, parents all over the province, will appreciate that we’ll be focusing more on students rather than on administrative tasks,” said Davidoff. “I don’t think parents are going to notice anything different. As a matter of fact, they might notice that the teachers are more focused on kids and that the quality of education could go up.”
SD20 superintendent of schools Jean Borsa said it’s too early to jump the gun on planning for this action.
“Until it happens, it’s really speculation because before teachers can do anything it has to go through the public employees’ sector board to determine whether it’s essential service or not and that hasn’t been done, yet,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see whether that happens so it’s really impossible to comment until we know the details.”
Davidoff said the union’s main goals are to improve teacher working conditions and student learning
conditions while addressing improvement to salary and benefits, noting that B.C. ranks eighth in teacher pay across Canada and that teachers have not seen any substantial benefit improvements in 20 years.
“What you have is a right wing agenda that is hammering unions like ours and for some reason we end up being the whipping boy for the Liberal government and then we’re vilified that we are some how taking actions that are inappropriate,” said Davidoff.
Negotiations over class size and composition began following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in April, which found the 2001 removal of class size and composition legislation unconstitutional. While the legislation remains unchanged, the government has agreed to a one-year timeline for discussions.
“The irony is that this is a government that supports business in a very big way,” said Davidoff. “They are sacrosanct that that’s the way our economy operates, that without law we would have chaos and, yet, when it comes to our collective agreement, they have a ruling against them that states point blank that there contract stripping exercise was illegal.”
The current five-year contract, which expires today, gave teachers a 16 per cent wage increase over the five-year life of the contract.