Vote unlikely to prompt immediate teachers’ strike

Teachers at-the-ready but B.C. strike not necessarily imminent: observers

  • Jun. 8, 2014 11:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A pivotal strike vote this Monday and Tuesday by British Columbia’s teachers is no schoolyard game of chicken, and experts advise that tiptoeing, rather than stampeding, towards a strike or back-to-work legislation may settle the dispute far more quickly.

Frustrations in what will likely be a strong union vote of support for a full strike could be channelled into pressure at the bargaining table, said University of the Fraser Valley Associate Prof. Fiona McQuarrie.

“With the emotions running as high as they are, whoever decides to escalate this first is going to take a big risk,” said McQuarrie, who’s in the university’s school of business. “If the dispute then blows up totally out of hand, they’re going to be seen as the ones who made that happen.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s call-to-arms comes after weeks of incrementally rising tactics that haven’t resulted in the movement from the government to the extent the union wanted.

McQuarrie is expecting a successful vote, which she said gives union negotiators more leverage. Completely shutting down the workplace, however, she said would be the “last big thing” teachers could do.

Charles Ungerleider, a former B.C. deputy minister of education, said he, too, doesn’t expect an affirmative vote will prompt the union to issue immediate notice.

“The fact that you’re taking a strike vote doesn’t indicate that you’re necessarily going to a strike,” said Ungerleider, a bureaucrat under the New Democrats from 1998 to 2001 and now professor emeritus with the University of British Columbia.

The union has typically gone back to its members for a strike mandate over the years he’s witnessed bargaining, he said, in order to move up the ladder of escalation in a way that gives teachers some control.

But what has been different in this round of negotiations, Ungerleider said, is the “encouraging” government pledge to hold off legislating a settlement. He believes the union’s chief concern isn’t wages but getting traction around classroom conditions.

He has some sympathy for teachers, he added.

“There’s no question that teachers have lost ground in terms of their own purchasing power,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’ve lost ground relative to other similarly educated people working in the public sector.”

The parties have appeared consistently divided over wages and whether classroom size and composition has a place in contract negotiations.

The union says it’s asking for a 9.75 per cent wage increase over four years, but the government calculates that including cost of living increases and other benefits the demand is closer to 19 per cent.

The government’s bargaining arm has offered 7.3 per cent over six years, along with a $1,200 signing bonus if the deal is made before the end of the school year.

The government is expected to save $12 million in teachers’ salaries and $4.5 million in support staff pay for each day of a potential strike, according to the education ministry.

So far, rotating strikes have saved the government $16.5 million each week. An additional $1.2 million per day has accrued by cutting teachers’ pay 10 per cent based on an employer-imposed lockout.

Teacher Aeryn Williams is still hoping a strike can be averted with a change of heart from the government.

“Everybody is emotional about this. It’s our kids and our jobs and our life being impacted,” said Williams, who teaches Grades 2 and 3 in Vancouver.

“I would support a strike where we would walk out now.”

The union initiated its first stage of job action on April 23, then launched stage two with rotating strikes a month later. It announced the prospect of a full-scale strike last Wednesday.

The employer announced late Friday it has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board asking the tribunal to designate the marking of exams for students in Grades 10 through 12 as essential.

Results of a strike vote are expected Tuesday night. The union is required to give three days notice before members walk off the job. The earliest possible date for school closures across B.C. would be June 16.

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Sidney designer showing killer collection at Van Fashion Week

A young Sidney designer is showing her 14 piece collection Obsidian Nights at Vancouver Fashion Week

Greater Victoria MP Randall Garrison calls on Ottawa to extend peacekeeping mission in Mali

The Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich MP just returned from a trip to Mali and Senegal

Invasive crab spotted near Sooke

Fisheries need more data to know if numbers are increasing

Credit card frauds target local businesses: VicPD

Crime Reduction Unit investigating several frauds costing several businesses over $50,000

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Most Read