Teachers in B.C. could walk off the job as early as Friday.
The province’s 40,000 teachers are planning to ramp up pressure on the government following an announcement that the province could legislate an end to the ongoing strike. Teachers in B.C. have refused administrative duties and are not including grades on students’ report cards. The job action began last September.
Education Minister George Abbott announced Thursday (Feb. 23) that he intends to end the job action and impose a contract. That followed assistant deputy minister Trevor Hughes’ comment that he believes it is unlikely the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association will reach a voluntary settlement.
Teachers are holding a provincewide vote Tuesday and Wednesday on escalating their strike action. Results of the vote are expected sometime Thursday, and teachers could walk off the job as early as Friday – depending on Abbott’s actions over the next few days, according to Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Tara Ehrcke.
Greater Victoria and Saanich school districts participated in a “Day of action,” Monday (Feb. 27). The “bell-to-bell” demonstration signified the period of time educators spend inside schools. After the final bell of the day, teachers demonstrated outside schools and at busy intersections in an effort to share their message with the public.
“It’s not a picket line, it’s just an information demonstration,” said Sean Hayes, president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association.
Some teachers also participated in a demonstration on the legislature lawn later on in the day.
Ehrcke said parents have shown a lot of support for the GVTA leading up to the demonstration.
“We’re asking for mediation or even arbitration as a way to get through the impasse,” she said. “We think legislation is not fair, not reasonable and not necessary right now. … That they would simply use the legislative hammer without exploring those other options, I think is unreasonable.”
The B.C. Federation of Labour commissioned a telephone survey that found 53 per cent of 400 people asked about the labour dispute last week were on the side of teachers, compared to 39 per cent who supported the government. The survey, conducted by Environics Research Group, also found 89 per cent of those polled felt the government should agree to arbitration if teachers stop job action and abide by an arbitrator’s ruling.
-With files from Christine van Reeuwyk