BC teachers vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike escalation, if needed; government’s reaction

A total of 28,809 teachers voted yes in a province-wide vote conducted June 9–10. In all, 33,387 teachers cast ballots, of whom 86% voted yes.

“With this vote, BC teachers have sent a very strong message to Christy Clark and her government;  it’s time to negotiate in good faith, put new funding on the table, and reach a fair deal with teachers that also provides better support for students,” BC Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker said. “It’s time for the BC Liberals to reinvest in public education and at least bring BC up to the national average in funding.”

In releasing the results, Iker stressed that teachers are prepared to fully withdraw services and go on a full-scale strike, but that decision has not yet been made. Rotating strikes will continue Wednesdayin 22 school districts and across the rest of the province on Thursday and Friday.

“At this point, the BCTF has not served notice, but we will do so if necessary. If we make the decision to escalate, we will provide three working days notice. That means there are still several days left that both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike, and end the government’s lockout,” said Iker.

“BC teachers have shown incredible strength and commitment during the rotating strikes and the government’s chaotic lockout. More than ever, parents understand that this fight is about quality education for students and fairness for teachers. We want to thank parents for their support and encourage everyone who cares about public education to contact their local MLAs and demand change from this government. There is no reason why a province as rich as BC should be second last when it comes to funding education.”

Iker stressed that the BC Teachers’ Federation is prepared to make the necessary moves at the bargaining table that will bring the two sides together. But, he said, the Federation cannot be expected to move alone.

“We’re ready to make moves and get down to hard bargaining, but teachers need to see some good faith. This government still has a proposal on the table that would wipe out class size and composition guarantees that the BC Supreme Court has twice ruled were illegally stripped from collective agreements. The government is also entrenched on a salary demand that would see teachers effectively take two more years of zeros, which would make it four in a row. That’s unfair and unreasonable.”

According to a Labour Relations Board ruling, the BCTF is required to give 72 hours notice, three working days, prior to commencing a full-scale strike. That notice has not yet been given.


EDUCATION Minister Peter Fassbender released the following statement on the vote results that provide the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) with a mandate to potentially escalate to a full strike:

“The vote results are not unexpected. While the BCTF leadership received the mandate they sought, no one should interpret this as any kind of enthusiasm on the part of teachers to shut down schools.

“I know teachers would prefer to be in their classrooms and I know that students and parents would rather finish this school year on a positive note. It is now up to the BCTF leadership to decide if they are going to move to a full walkout.

“The earliest a full strike could begin is next Monday – five days from now. It took five days of hard bargaining to get a framework agreement with school support staff. They did not need to strike to get a fair deal and neither do teachers.

“The BCTF leadership needs to come to the table with realistic expectations and a willingness to engage in meaningful bargaining. Teachers deserve a raise but their total compensation demands are about four times more than other recent settlements.

“BCPSEA has a fair wage offer on the table, one that’s in line with recent agreements covering nearly 150,000 public sector workers – including 34,000 school support workers. The offer also includes a special $1,200 signing bonus if we reach agreement before June 30th.

“My message to the BCTF is: let’s stay at the table and get to an agreement by June 30th, so we can head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability and focussed on student outcomes.”