B.C. teachers file strike notice
The B.C. Teachers Federation says it has filed a strike notice that will take effect on the first day of the 2011-2012 school year.
Federation president Susan Lambert announced the pending job action at a press conference Wednesday morning, lamenting the lack of progress achieved since bargaining began in March.
"What the government has done in this round of bargaining is come to the table with a mandate that is simply a refusal to bargain," Lambert said.
Teachers have been threatening a work-to-rule action for weeks as contract talks with the province have failed to result in an agreement.
Beginning Tuesday, classes will be in session, but teachers will not conduct routine administrative tasks, including filling out forms, collecting data or meeting with principals and other administrators.
They also will not be supervising playgrounds, writing report cards or conducting parent-teacher interviews.
But these terms only represents "Phase 1" of the job action, which teachers say could escalate if bargaining does not progress. They are asking for smaller class sizes, higher salaries and the right to bargain at the local level.
Education Minister George Abbott said Wednesday that the strike notice comes as no surprise, and the ministry is aware that teachers are dissatisfied with the bargaining process and the province's "net zero" mandate for all public sector wages.
"I respect that they would like to see [a wage increase]. We were able to provide a 12 per cent increase back in 2006," Abbott said. "We just don't have the flexibility that we had."
Abbott said he hopes the BCTF will eventually be convinced to accept the government's terms and avoid a full-blown strike.
"The possibility of having a protracted shutdown of schools would be unacceptable to any government, and certainly it would be unacceptable to us," Abbott said.
But Lambert said B.C. teachers' wages are falling behind their colleagues in other provinces, and have already sacrificed too much to give up on their other demands.
"Teachers for years sacrificed wages and benefit improvements in order to get collective agreement language around class size, composition and service ratios," Lambert said.
"What this government's doing is making choices like building the BC Place roof…. There is funding available."