B.C. teachers’ dispute cheat sheet
To say the battle between teachers and the B.C. government is a long and complicated one is an understatement. This most recent job action is just one piece of a complicated and frustrating puzzle that’s been playing out in courts and classrooms for more than 10 years in B.C.
Here’s a cheat sheet on the dispute with a recent timeline of events and a rundown of what’s being argued and what’s at stake – not just for the teachers and the government, but parents and students too.
- March 6: Teachers, who’ve been without a contract since June 2013, voted 89 per cent in favour of job action amid persistently frosty relations with the BC Liberal government.
- April 23: Phase 1 job action began with teachers refusing to supervise students outside of class time or communicating in writing with administrators. The move prompted about a dozen school districts across B.C. to cancel recess.
May 16: The B.C. government backed off on demands for a 10-year contract and instead offered a 6.5 per cent pay hike over six years. It also offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers signed by the end of June.
That was the carrot. The stick was a threat to roll back teachers’ wages five per cent if they didn’t agree by the end of the school year, and 10 per cent if they went to Phase 2 of their job action.
- May 20: The BC Teachers’ Federation, citing the province’s lack of compromise on wages, class room sizes and compositions, announced that Phase 2 was imminent. The teachers said rotating strikes would hit every school district in the province from May 26 to May 29.
- May 21: The government sent a letter to the BCTF president announcing lockouts in high schools on June 25 and 26, and in all schools on June 27 and work-reduction rules starting May 26.
- May 23: Both sides agreed to cancel a scheduled bargaining session to reassess each other’s proposals, all but guaranteeing rotating strikes, and accompanying 10 per cent pay cuts, would proceed on May 26.
- May 29: Teachers and negotiators meet for a hearing on the terms of B.C.'s partial walkout, including provisions to claw back salaries.
- June 4: Teachers drop wage demand by one percentage point, to about 12 per cent over four years, and revealed it would yield on other issues including preparation time, benefits and teaching-on-call compensation.
- June 9-10: Teachers vote on whether to escalate to a full-scale strike. More than 33,300 teachers cast ballots, with 86 per cent in favour.
What teachers want:
B.C. teachers haven’t had a salary increase since July 2010 and are demanding higher wages and benefits. They are asking for a 12 per cent bump over four years.
Teachers have also been adamant about smaller class sizes and limits to how many special needs children are allowed in a single classroom. The province illegally stripped class size and composition guarantees from teachers' collective agreements, according to two separate B.C. Supreme Court rulings.
They want guaranteed levels of specialist teachers and extra lesson-planning time, as well as more one-on-one support for students who need extra help.
The BC Teachers’ Federation maintains the province’s education funding allots $1,000 less per student than the Canadian average.
What government’s offering:
The province has backed off on its demand for a 10-year contract and increased its offer to a 7.25 per cent pay hike over six years. It also offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers sign by the end of June.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association’s chief negotiator said meeting all the teachers’ demands would cost $2 billion, or about $1,000 per taxpayer.
For a full rundown of the government's offer as of June 16, click here.
Impact of teachers’ rotating strikes:
Rotating strikes began May 26 and have hit every school in B.C. for one day per week since. Parents are being told to keep their kids at home when their district strikes, but children who go to school will not be sent away.
Many local community centres have responded to the disruption by offering special day camp programs for affected kids. Parents are advised to contact their local community centre or municipality to see if anything is being offered for childcare. Some local attractions, like Grouse Mountain, are offering special day programs as well.
Impact of the government’s lockout:
The BC Teachers’ Federation said the province is locking out high school teachers on June 25 and 26 and all teachers on June 27. The union said B.C. is also imposing work-reduction rules that ban teachers from working during lunch or recess, or being at school more than 45 minutes before or after class time starting May 26.
The BCTF said these terms put graduation ceremonies, extracurricular activities such as drama, sports and music, and even some year-end exam marking in jeopardy.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association disagreed with teachers’ interpretation and said after-school activities and grad celebrations won’t be affected.
Impact of a full-scale strike:
The teachers’ union is obligated to give three days’ notice before launching a full-scale strike. To date, no notice has been given.
A full strike could mean high school students’ final exams will not be marked. The B.C. government has promised parents exams will be marked regardless of escalating job action, and sought an order from the Labour Relations Board to ensure they are.
The LRB has yet to hold a hearing on the issue.