Boundary teachers strike next week

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
March 1st, 2012

School is out Monday, March 5, Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7 in Boundary School District 51 after teachers voted province-wide to strike.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28 and Wednesday, Feb. 29,  27,946 of the province’s 41,000 public school teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of striking in protest of the B.C. Government’s Bill 22 which would impose a contract on them.

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011 and have been in negotiations with the government since March 2011. Since September 2011 teachers have been in a “teach only” job action.

Norm Sabourin, president Boundary District Teacher’s Association said this district, which includes more than 90 full-time teachers and 30 substitute teachers, will be spending their strike time doing a leafleting campaign all over the region.

Teachers are meeting with Sabourin today, Thursday, March 1, after school to discuss the details.

“We’re not surprised by the vote,” said Sabourin. “Teachers are really upset with Bill 22. The legislation passed was absolutely vile. This is contract stripping of things near and dear to our hearts like postings and fillings, seniority, class sizes and class composition.”

According to the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF), Bill 22 seeks to “impose a net-zero contract, to restrict the ability to negotiate improved learning conditions, and to eliminate fundamental civil and labour rights for teachers”.

On Wednesday, Feb. 29 B.C. Minister of Education George Abbott introduced Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act, in the legislature. The bill suspends the current job action, sets a “cooling off” period, appoints a mediator to facilitate the bargaining and implements a new $165 million Learning Improvement Fund.

“If you look at the history of the relationship between the teachers’ union and the government in this province, you’ll soon realize that in almost 20 years of provincewide bargaining the BCTF has only successfully concluded one negotiated agreement,” said Abbott in a recent press release about Bill 22. “You will also realize that Bill 22 is a measured and appropriate response to the current situation.

“I am disappointed by the initial comments coming from the teachers’ union. In the most frustrating example – the union has been asking for mediation. Now, they are rejecting the idea simply because the mediator is required to strike a genuine balance in the discussions by looking at what both parties want so we can put the needs of students first.

“It is simply inaccurate for the BCTF to claim that Bill 22 eliminates job security rights, professional autonomy rights and rights to due process. In fact, the bill makes no changes to any of these matters. What it does do is simply get the parties back to the table with a mediator to deal with the issues at hand in a constructive and thoughtful way.”

The BCTF would disagree.

“This legislation opens the doors to increase the number of students and special education students in classes,” said Sabourin. “It opens the doors for worse learning conditions for our kids. It is not about what is best for the kids…This moves public education system into a master, slave relationship and teachers are the paid slaves. No respect is being given and no respect is being shown by this government.”

School District sending out letter to parents

All students in School District 51 will be sent home with a letter to parents about the strike today, Thursday, March 1.

Classes and buses will be cancelled for those three days. Students will return to school on Thursday, March 8, have Friday off, as usual. School will resume a regular schedule on Monday, March 12, unless otherwise notified.

Updated information about the strike can be found at www.sd51.bc.ca . Questions and concerns can be addressed by school principals or by Michael Strukoff, district superintendent at 250-442-8258 or michael.strukoff@sd51.bc.ca.

To see what else the province has to say go to www.gov.bc.ca/connect . To see the teacher’s comments visit www.bctf.ca.


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