Teachers plan next move in attempt to repeal back-to-work legislation

Province votes to pass Bill 22, expect it to be passed into law today

BCTF president Susan Lambert

While the B.C. Liberals prepared to legislate teachers into a contract this week, educators across the province were making alternate plans.

Though Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, wouldn’t tell the News what the next course of action will be, she says the group of 41,000 teachers will explore every possible avenue available to them to reverse Bill 22. That will happen during the BCTF’s annual general meeting this weekend (March 17-22).

“This legislation will be bad for everyone,” Lambert said. “It’s the worst-case scenario, and we will be resisting it as strongly as we can.”

The Education Improvement Act – or Bill 22 – comes nearly one year after contract negotiations between teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association began. While talks centred around class size and composition, as well as teacher prep time, the two sides were ultimately polarized over the government’s unwillingness to diverge from a two-year “net zero” wage mandate.

Education minister George Abbott said the bill imposes a six-month “cooling-off period” and sets up the appointment of a mediator to look at the non-monetary issues on the table, such as class size and composition. The legislation extends the current contract terms to June 2013, imposing the wage mandate that most other government unions voluntarily agreed to. It gives a yet-to-be-named government-appointed mediator until June 30 to seek agreement.

Liberal house leader Rich Coleman moved to end debate of the bill Monday afternoon and the government majority voted to pass his motion. Bill 22 is expected to be passed into law later today (Thursday), ensuring that schools will return to normal operation after spring break.

Meanwhile, educators currently on spring break are awaiting decisions to be made at the AGM. Among those is Vanessa Fehr, public relations co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association job action committee and a teacher in the Greater Victoria School District.

“It’s unfortunate that spring break occurred right as this issue was breaking down,” Fehr said. “If there seems to be a dying off or waning in the engagement, I can tell you, it’s probably because we’re exhausted. We feel like we’re under attack.”

NDP house leader John Horgan said earlier in the week the government should consider his proposal to delay the legislation and seek an independent mediator appointed by the Labour Relations Board.

Lambert says the Education Improvement Act is characterized by at least four different negative aspects. The bill curtails bargaining rights and imposes a “skewed, mock-mediation” process; ignores a Supreme Court ruling on class size and composition; removes any obligation for government to adequately fund the system; and proposes a $30-million learning improvement fund – $137 million less than would be required to compensate for inflationary costs over a year’s time, Lambert said.

“We cannot understand why government would table such a legislation, and we cannot understand why they would ram it through the legislature,” she said. “The only thing I can conclude is that government has been in control of these negotiations since the start, and since the start has made sure that they failed so that we could get legislation, so that they could legislate us back to work.”

-–with files from Tom Fletcher

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

James Bay street corner could house public berry patch

The James Bay Neighborhood Association is hoping to offer berries locals

High of 16 C for Thursday

Plus your weekend forecast

New commemorative loonie marking progress for LGBTQ2+ rights draws mixed response

Critics say coin’s date of 1969 ‘equality’ is misleading

PHOTOS: Slugfest at the 2019 Super Channel Championships

Pictures from day two of Boxing BC bouts this week

Time for round two of the Dunnet theatre seat sale

Fundraising committee looks to sell remaining seats Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High

WATCH: Cougar saunters through Metchosin yard

Spring cougar sighting caught on camera

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read