Government forces teachers to walk out

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
March 4th, 2012

All B.C. teachers will be out on the streets and not in their classrooms as they strike over the next three days — Monday, March 5, Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7 — in protest of Bill 22 imposed by the government late last week.

All School District 51 schools will be closed over those three days and buses will not be running.

Last week the 27,946 of the province’s 41,000 teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of striking due to a recent announcement by the provincial government that they will be imposing a contract on them. Teachers have been negotiating a contract since March 2011 and have been without one since June 2011.

The 90 full-time and 30 substitute Boundary School District 51 teachers will be spending their three day strike in study sessions and on leafleting campaigns at the Boundary District Teacher’s Association (BDTA) office in Grand Forks and at the Midway Curling Club.

“It was a somber mood,” said Norm Sabourin, BDTA president, of Thursday, March 1 meeting teachers had last week to decide what to do during the strike.

Sabourin said the meeting included more than 40 teachers in Grand Fork and another dozen who attended remotely from Midway via Skype.

Teachers don’t take this action lightly. They would rather be in their classrooms but we have to stand up for public education. This legislation eliminates the limits on classroom sizes, composition and it is determental to student learning.

According to the B.C. Government, Bill 22, or the Education Improvement Act, will suspend the current job action, set a “cooling off” period, appoint a mediator to facilitate the bargaining and implement a new $165 million Learning Improvement Fund.

“This bill is attacking public education,” said Sabourin. “It is an attack on unionized labour. It is about union busting.”

On Tuesday, March 6 the BCTF and the B.C. Federation of Labour will be rallying on the lawns of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria at noon.

Not all parents support strike

Some Boundary parents are not in support of the teacher’s strike and some Parent Advisory Groups find the news too new to comment.

Jennifer Burrows is the mother of four, three of whom go to school in Grand Forks. School is out for three days but it won’t affect her child care needs too much because she is lucky enough to have a 14 year-old daughter who can babysit her 11 and nine year-old. If she didn’t have a teenager at home she’d also be fortunate enough to have her mom around.

Child care during the strike might not be her issue, but the quality of education her children are getting is. Burrows’s 14 year-old daughter has asked to be home schooled because she feels she’s not getting the attention she needs in school. Burrows said in high school she expects the teachers to be knowledgeable in the subjects they teach but in her daughter’s experience that has not been so. Burrows has also experienced issues for her younger children.

“(The teachers) don’t even make them correct their spelling mistakes,” said Burrows.

She feels her children aren’t learning at their grade levels anymore.

Burrows has little sympathy for the teachers’s strike.

“I think the majority of parents think this is a bit ridiculous,” she said. “I don’t think they’re doing their jobs adequately.”

Child care options limited in Boundary

For parents without a teenager a home, child care may be difficult over the next three days.

“This is the time to start networking in your community and connect with people,” said Fatima Faria, executive director for Sunshine Valley Child Care Society in Grand Forks.

She suggests parents should check in with friends, neighbours and relatives to find care for their children.

At the Little People’s Centre, which is operated by the society, they offer 10 spots for after school care for school aged children. Those spots are full, but this week they will be offering all day care to those 10 kids, said Faria.

She said this is a time for parents to reflect on their crisis plans.

“What would you do if (the day care) wasn’t there and there was a crisis,” she said. “It is good to have those back up plans.”

As of Friday, Faria had not gotten a lot of calls from parents looking for care so she hopes that’s a sign most parents do have a plan in place.


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 . On the school district site there is also a copy of Bill 22.

To see what else the province has to say go to www.gov.bc.ca/connect or to their newest post at http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2012EDUC0019-000236.htm . To see the teacher’s comments visit www.bctf.ca .

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