BC teachers dispute

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BC teachers dispute

VICTORIA - The B.C. Liberal government introduced legislation Tuesday that imposes a six-month cooling off period and suspends teachers? ability to legally strike while a mediator tries to bring the parties toward a negotiated agreement.

But neither Premier Christy Clark nor Education Minister George Abbott would say when the bill is expected to pass, leaving open the possibility of a three-day legal walkout at B.C. schools starting as early as next Monday or Tuesday.

Once passed, the Education Improvement Act will make it illegal for teachers not only to walk off the job, but also to continue current job action such as refusing to issue report cards.

The legislation, which prescribes the appointment of a mediator who will report back by the end of June, also sets out penalties in the event of any illegal job action.

Each individual teacher who strikes after the bill becomes law could face a penalty of up to $475 per day; the B.C. Teachers? Federation could face a penalty of at least $1.3 million per day if an illegal strike were to occur.

The bill was introduced Tuesday just over an hour after the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled that teachers could strike for three consecutive days, as long as they give notice two school days ahead of time.

After the first week, teachers may strike one day each week without violating a provincial law that designates education as an essential service in B.C.

Teachers were voting Tuesday, and will continue today, on whether to escalate job action. Notice of a strike tonight or Thursday morning could mean a walkout beginning as soon as Monday or Tuesday.

BCTF president Susan Lambert described Tuesday?s legislation as a highly political document that will not benefit teachers or their students.

?This act is the height of political cynicism. It?s much more of a political act than an education act,? Lambert told a news conference.

?It?s just looking towards the next provincial election instead of towards the needs of students in classrooms in B.C.?

Lambert wouldn?t say whether teachers are likely to strike in protest, noting only that union executives would meet Tuesday night to discuss the bill in detail.

?Stay tuned,? was her response when asked if a walkout is likely.

The last time B.C. teachers walked off the job was in October 2005, when they staged a 10-day illegal strike in response to government imposing a new contract. They were ordered back to work and the union was later fined $500,000 for contempt of court.

New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix criticized the government for trying to politicize negotiations and turn them into a ?wedge issue.?

?I think what we need from all sides is a return to a culture of respect that?s been missing,? he said.

?It?s my expectation that the NDP will be advocating a return to mediation, real mediation and that we?ll be voting against the bill.?

Abbott said the mediator called for in Tuesday?s legislation will be selected by government and has yet to be chosen. He said that person will be asked to look at issues such as the manner and consequences of class size and composition, the scheduling and selection of teachers and the local-provincial split of bargaining issues.

Abbott said the mediator will be able to look at wages, but only within the government?s net-zero mandate, where all raises must be funded by savings found inside the existing contract.

After the mediator reports back by the end of June, the two sides will be given time to reach an agreement before the cooling-off period ends Aug. 31.

Lambert described the proposal for mediation as a sham because the mediator will be required to consider proposals from the employer that would change teacher assessment, professional development and seniority rights.

?It?s very wily in my view. It?s very cunning. It?s not very sincere. They?ve crafted an act that legislates us into a mediated process with a predetermined end, and the predetermined end is further strips to our collective agreement,? she said.

?So, they want us to be complicit in the mediation or negotiation of strips. That?s what this act does.?

Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Clark called the bill an attempt by government ?to find some middle ground.?

?I want to try to find some way to give the union a chance to back away from the cliff, to climb down from some of the rhetoric that we?ve seen here,? she said.

?I want to give the NDP the same chance to climb down as well on this stuff. I think by trying to give it a little time with the mediator with really strict guidelines and parameters on that around net zero I think we give it a little bit more of a chance to get there.?

Tuesday?s legislation also implements a long-promised $165-million Learning Improvement Fund to help fund support for special needs students.

Abbott said $30 million will be allocated to schools in this coming year, $60 million in the following year and $75 million every year thereafter.

That measure comes in reaction to a ruling last April that found several provisions of government?s previous legislation ? Bill 27 and Bill 28 ? to be unconstitutional.

?Money will be allocated to classrooms with the highest need in school districts based on consultations involving BCTF representatives, classroom teachers and district school staff,? said Abbott.

He added that, beginning in the next round of bargaining, teachers will again be able to negotiate class size, composition and related matters during collective bargaining.

He said this does not restore past collective agreement provisions on those issues, but instead allows for future discussion.

?Future bargaining on these matters would start from a clean slate,? he said.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/imposes+cooling+period+dispute+with+teachers/6223183/story.html#ixzz1nkcHXu8Z

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/imposes+cooling+period+dispute+with+teachers/6223183/story.html

Basically, even though the labor relations board has ruled that it is legal for the teachers to strike (with restrictions), the Government is trying to pass legislation that forces back to work, and to give up even the job action that has been taken so far.

Should this be allowed? Any thoughts on the whole situation? It is a huge big deal here right now, and everyone is just waiting to see if teachers will be at school on Monday.

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I don't feel the government should be legislating this. The teachers have a right to strike and fight for good working conditions and the needs of their students. This isn't just about the pay issues. There is also the issue of no class size limits and no limits on special needs kids in the class rooms. How is that supposed to work? A class of 30+ students with however many special needs kids and one teacher? And our kids are supposed to be getting a good education? Really?

Let the teachers strike and make their point. Education is worth it. I would rather pay for a pay raise for the teachers and another huge pay hike for the MLA's (again!).

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I have been very disappointed with the trend to legislate workers back to work. The Harper government has done this with Canada post and now the BC Liberals are following suit. How the hell are workers supposed to fight for their rights if the government is just going to legislate them back? It feels like the government can do whatever they choose without accountability and the rest of us have to just suck it up. They talk about fiscal responsibility and tightening out belts but apparently that is only for the 99% since their pay raises still went through.

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I actually don't think teachers should be allowed to strike.

Strikes work in the private sector, where the employer loses money as a result. Basic education should be considered an essential service and negotiations need to be managed without walking off the job. It does nothing for public support unless the public is as upset as the teachers. The teachers union has a pretty poor public image and surprisingly low public support considering the importance of the job they hold. They are a very militant union and are never on good grounds with the gov't. That Ginny Sims, who was in charge a while back came across publicly as a loud harpy... I remember once seeing her talk in a press release, "the government LITERALLY drove a truck through our contract!!!" Really??? Literally?

Anyways, the govt has clearly said they have a net zero mandate. We all know the govt will legislate in a contract if needed. I agree class size/composition is a huge issue and I think the BCTF would be far, far more successful in both their negotiations and garnering public support if they made that issue alone their platform, setting aside all talk of wage increases for now.

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I agree with Fuschia that government raises need to stop. The economy is down, no one else is getting a raise, they shouldn't either.

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"kris_w" wrote:

I actually don't think teachers should be allowed to strike.

Strikes work in the private sector, where the employer loses money as a result. Basic education should be considered an essential service and negotiations need to be managed without walking off the job. It does nothing for public support unless the public is as upset as the teachers. The teachers union has a pretty poor public image and surprisingly low public support considering the importance of the job they hold. They are a very militant union and are never on good grounds with the gov't. That Ginny Sims, who was in charge a while back came across publicly as a loud harpy... I remember once seeing her talk in a press release, "the government LITERALLY drove a truck through our contract!!!" Really??? Literally?

Anyways, the govt has clearly said they have a net zero mandate. We all know the govt will legislate in a contract if needed. I agree class size/composition is a huge issue and I think the BCTF would be far, far more successful in both their negotiations and garnering public support if they made that issue alone their platform, setting aside all talk of wage increases for now.

I agree. The focus on the wages is hurting this issue. The issue of class sizes and resources for students is what I am hearing from the teachers I know. The schools do not have the resources to educate the students well and that is a huge issue for me as a parent. There was a school in Maple Ridge that had toilet paper on the supply list because there wasn't enough funds in the budget! Now that is wrong. We need to fund an education system that will do well for our children. I would much rather fund that than many of the other things that our tax dollars go to (provincially and federally - million dollar man made lake anyone?).

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"fuchsiasky" wrote:

I agree. The focus on the wages is hurting this issue. The issue of class sizes and resources for students is what I am hearing from the teachers I know. The schools do not have the resources to educate the students well and that is a huge issue for me as a parent. There was a school in Maple Ridge that had toilet paper on the supply list because there wasn't enough funds in the budget! Now that is wrong. We need to fund an education system that will do well for our children. I would much rather fund that than many of the other things that our tax dollars go to (provincially and federally - million dollar man made lake anyone?).

Yes, every teacher I know is concerned about class composition. But, there seems to be a disconnect between what they are saying they want and what is going on in negotiations.

I'm curious as to what sort of process goes on prior to negotiations. I'm in BCNU and we all get surveys months and months before negotiations which base the unions negotiation stance. It seems to serve us well. I wonder if they have the same feedback processes?

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I would say that it is more the media that is focusing on the wages than the union. The union went in a 13%, has since dropped that to 6% and has said, at least to teachers, that they would be happy to settle at 3% which is simply a cost of living raise and will not bring us anywhere close to the rest of Canada. And is on par with what other agencies are getting. Some examples are:
BC Nurses – 3% for 2009, 3% for 2010, 3% for 2011

Delta Police – 8.75% over 33 months as of April 1, 2010

Kamloops Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2011, 2% for 2012, 2% for 2013

Surrey Firefighters – 3% for 2010, 2.5% for 2011

North Cowichan Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2010, 2.5% for 2011, 2.5% for 2012, 3% for 2013

Comox District Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2010, 2% for 2011, 3% for 2012, 2% for 2013

Vancouver Police – 2.95% for 2010, 2.95% for 2011, 1.25% for 2012, 1.3% for 2013

Quesnel Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 0% for 2010, 1.5% for 2011, 2% for 2012

Courtenay Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2011, 2% for 2012, 2.75% for 2013, 2.25% for 2014

BC Paramedics – 3% for 2010

Revelstoke Municipal Employees – 1.25% for 2010, 1.25% for 2011, 1.5% for 2012, 1.5% for 2013

*source http://bctf.ca/BargainingAndContracts.aspx?id=25224&libID=25214

Our biggest issue is the class size/composition clause which was ILLEGALLY taken out of our contract in 2005! This bill eliminates it completely and I think does a huge disservice to students. They are also attempting to make changes to our hiring and firing policies and a number of other things.

I grieve for our education system.

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I dont believe teachers should be able to strike, period. Negotiate all you want but when the teachers strike everybody looses.

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"mom3girls" wrote:

I dont believe teachers should be able to strike, period. Negotiate all you want but when the teachers strike everybody looses.

I totally agree.

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"ftmom" wrote:

I would say that it is more the media that is focusing on the wages than the union. The union went in a 13%, has since dropped that to 6% and has said, at least to teachers, that they would be happy to settle at 3% which is simply a cost of living raise and will not bring us anywhere close to the rest of Canada. And is on par with what other agencies are getting. Some examples are:
BC Nurses – 3% for 2009, 3% for 2010, 3% for 2011

Delta Police – 8.75% over 33 months as of April 1, 2010

Kamloops Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2011, 2% for 2012, 2% for 2013

Surrey Firefighters – 3% for 2010, 2.5% for 2011

North Cowichan Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2010, 2.5% for 2011, 2.5% for 2012, 3% for 2013

Comox District Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2010, 2% for 2011, 3% for 2012, 2% for 2013

Vancouver Police – 2.95% for 2010, 2.95% for 2011, 1.25% for 2012, 1.3% for 2013

Quesnel Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 0% for 2010, 1.5% for 2011, 2% for 2012

Courtenay Municipal Employees (CUPE) – 2% for 2011, 2% for 2012, 2.75% for 2013, 2.25% for 2014

BC Paramedics – 3% for 2010

Revelstoke Municipal Employees – 1.25% for 2010, 1.25% for 2011, 1.5% for 2012, 1.5% for 2013

*source http://bctf.ca/BargainingAndContracts.aspx?id=25224&libID=25214

Our biggest issue is the class size/composition clause which was ILLEGALLY taken out of our contract in 2005! This bill eliminates it completely and I think does a huge disservice to students. They are also attempting to make changes to our hiring and firing policies and a number of other things.

I grieve for our education system.

I clicked on the BCTF link and I don't think they present that information honestly regarding the "net zero" thing. I can't say for everyone listed there, but as for BCNU those cost of living increases were negotiated several years back, not from this round of bargaining. Our contract is up this spring as well, and the "net zero" stance stands for the upcoming negotiations.

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"kris_w" wrote:

I actually don't think teachers should be allowed to strike.

Strikes work in the private sector, where the employer loses money as a result. Basic education should be considered an essential service and negotiations need to be managed without walking off the job. It does nothing for public support unless the public is as upset as the teachers. The teachers union has a pretty poor public image and surprisingly low public support considering the importance of the job they hold. They are a very militant union and are never on good grounds with the gov't. That Ginny Sims, who was in charge a while back came across publicly as a loud harpy... I remember once seeing her talk in a press release, "the government LITERALLY drove a truck through our contract!!!" Really??? Literally?

Anyways, the govt has clearly said they have a net zero mandate. We all know the govt will legislate in a contract if needed. I agree class size/composition is a huge issue and I think the BCTF would be far, far more successful in both their negotiations and garnering public support if they made that issue alone their platform, setting aside all talk of wage increases for now.

Agree with every word, though I can't admit to knowing the politics endemic to Canada like Kris does Smile

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"mom3girls" wrote:

I dont believe teachers should be able to strike, period. Negotiate all you want but when the teachers strike everybody looses.

But then what is the option when the employer refuses to negotiate? As in, wont even bring a proposal to the table? Are they just supposed to roll over and take it?

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Or quit, like the majority of workers (non union) in the world.

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"kris_w" wrote:

I clicked on the BCTF link and I don't think they present that information honestly regarding the "net zero" thing. I can't say for everyone listed there, but as for BCNU those cost of living increases were negotiated several years back, not from this round of bargaining. Our contract is up this spring as well, and the "net zero" stance stands for the upcoming negotiations.

I do get that there is a budget issue with the BC government right now, but what I dont get is why they cant come back to the table with anything. Even a, we cant give a raise right now, but lets write it in for 3 years for now, or, we cant increase wages, but lets talk class size and composition. The government is bullying the teachers, and it is the kids that lose out. Even as a public school teacher I am considering private school for my kids, because I no longer have faith that they will get what they need from the public school system. And it is not the teachers. The support is not there, and that can only go on for so long before the whole system starts to crumble.

I actually have a personal belief that the end result the BC government is heading towards is privatization of our education system, and that would be tragic. If teachers arent able to stand up for the students then who will?

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"ftmom" wrote:

I do get that there is a budget issue with the BC government right now, but what I dont get is why they cant come back to the table with anything. Even a, we cant give a raise right now, but lets write it in for 3 years for now, or, we cant increase wages, but lets talk class size and composition. The government is bullying the teachers, and it is the kids that lose out. Even as a public school teacher I am considering private school for my kids, because I no longer have faith that they will get what they need from the public school system. And it is not the teachers. The support is not there, and that can only go on for so long before the whole system starts to crumble.

I actually have a personal belief that the end result the BC government is heading towards is privatization of our education system, and that would be tragic. If teachers arent able to stand up for the students then who will?

Obviously I'm not in the negotiation room, but I would suspect the stalemate is due to the vast differences in bargaining starting points.

My kids go to a private school and I am never more thankful than during bargaining.

It is also worth noting that the majority of private school teachers (exceptions being the super expensive elite ones) make significantly less than public school teachers. (my sister is a sub in both systems, there is a huge difference in salary, not to mention far fewer benefits)

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"ftmom" wrote:

But then what is the option when the employer refuses to negotiate? As in, wont even bring a proposal to the table? Are they just supposed to roll over and take it?

I am not sure about the history of this area, only the experience with our local school dist. The school dist was not offering anything because it was so far off of what the union was wanting

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"ftmom" wrote:

I would say that it is more the media that is focusing on the wages than the union. The union went in a 13%, has since dropped that to 6% and has said, at least to teachers, that they would be happy to settle at 3% which is simply a cost of living raise and will not bring us anywhere close to the rest of Canada. And is on par with what other agencies are getting.

This right here is why this isn't getting anywhere.

To go in at 13% when the govt has said zero is nuts. I've heard time and again that the two parties may as well be on different planets for the differences in offers.

My DH was listening to a talk-radio program yesterday and they were saying that although union/teachers are saying it is all about class size/composition, one of the first things the union brought to the table was to extended bereavement leave to 2 weeks! And apparently that wasn't just for immediate family. Does anyone on the planet get that much bereavement leave???

If it is all about the kids, then the union needs to stop putting forward nonsensical issues like that.

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Of course teachers should be allowed to strike.

I can't imagine masses of teachers quitting being a good thing for anywhere, and that should be avoided.

If the government doesn't want them to strike, they shouldn't be using this as a bargaining ploy for more votes. What is happening is the New Democrats are going to form the next government so the Libs are frightened and trying to gain right wing votes by shutting down the teachers. It's a sad day for BC, and for students (what kind of government increases class sizes?) but it's only temporary until the socialists come back.

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I always lurk... I hope you don't mind me throwing an opinion into the ring...

A little history:

Years ago during negotiations, the BC teachers gave up any increase in pay for the right to use class size and class composition ( 'composition' meaning number of children who need special attention per classroom). The government then stripped away those rights and left the teachers with nothing... no pay increase ( Lowest wages in Canada highest cost of living... 'just sayin' )

Teachers are trying to juggle class sizes of 30+ sometimes with 10 or more designated students. They are doing triage... not teaching.

Last year, the Supreme court of British Columbia ruled that the actions of Christy Clark were illegal. And what has happened since then? The creation of Bill 22. A bill the government is trying (and shamefully will be successful) in passing within the next week or two. This bill strips teachers of all their rights... I mean all their rights.

So what ...who cares...

Most teachers have as much education as lawyers, engineers, and many other well paid sectors. They are professionals who should demand to be treated with respect... Many of our best and brightest know this... they are leaving for other provinces, or just avoiding teaching all together. What is that going to do for the quality of our public system? That's right... turn it in to crap.

Which brings me to :

The privatization of education... Awesome if you can afford it... not so awesome for the majority of families that can't. Oh sure, there'll be subsidized schools for the poor. Rich kids will get a good education and poor kids... well who cares... Canada is passing a big crime bill that will fund the building of more prisons... they're gonna need it.

Oh, fun facts:

The BC government spent 577 MILLION dollars on a new roof for a sports arena last year... the Olympics that they managed to find $$$ for, cost over 900 MILLION dollars. They can't find a little $ for teachers and healthcare professionals?
If we were collecting taxes at the same rate now, as we were in 2000, we?d have $2.5 billion dollars a year in our pockets... ( http://www.policynote.ca/bc-isnt-broke-putting-teacher-bargaining-in-perspective/ )

Education costs less then ignorance.

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"stupidcomputer" wrote:

I always lurk... I hope you don't mind me throwing an opinion into the ring...

A little history:

Years ago during negotiations, the BC teachers gave up any increase in pay for the right to use class size and class composition ( 'composition' meaning number of children who need special attention per classroom). The government then stripped away those rights and left the teachers with nothing... no pay increase ( Lowest wages in Canada highest cost of living... 'just sayin' )

Teachers are trying to juggle class sizes of 30+ sometimes with 10 or more designated students. They are doing triage... not teaching.

Last year, the Supreme court of British Columbia ruled that the actions of Christy Clark were illegal. And what has happened since then? The creation of Bill 22. A bill the government is trying (and shamefully will be successful) in passing within the next week or two. This bill strips teachers of all their rights... I mean all their rights.

So what ...who cares...

Most teachers have as much education as lawyers, engineers, and many other well paid sectors. They are professionals who should demand to be treated with respect... Many of our best and brightest know this... they are leaving for other provinces, or just avoiding teaching all together. What is that going to do for the quality of our public system? That's right... turn it in to crap.

Which brings me to :

The privatization of education... Awesome if you can afford it... not so awesome for the majority of families that can't. Oh sure, there'll be subsidized schools for the poor. Rich kids will get a good education and poor kids... well who cares... Canada is passing a big crime bill that will fund the building of more prisons... they're gonna need it.

Oh, fun facts:

The BC government spent 577 MILLION dollars on a new roof for a sports arena last year... the Olympics that they managed to find $$$ for, cost over 900 MILLION dollars. They can't find a little $ for teachers and healthcare professionals?
If we were collecting taxes at the same rate now, as we were in 2000, we?d have $2.5 billion dollars a year in our pockets... ( http://www.policynote.ca/bc-isnt-broke-putting-teacher-bargaining-in-perspective/ )

Education costs less then ignorance.

Thank you for posting this. I found I had to walk away from this one early on, as I am just too close to it. I am still finding it difficult to put my arguments into words, as my emotions get in the way.