Members of the Kimberley Teachers Association, along with BCTF members from across the province will be taking a strike vote this week.
However, says Sally Struthers of the KTA, this does not mean imminent school closures.
“We want to reassure parents that we consider job actions and timing very carefully,” Struthers said. “We want to negotiate a deal at the table, that’s our goal. We will work very hard to get a negotiated settlement.”
Teachers are disappointed, Struthers said, in the provincial governments decision to appeal a January 27 Supreme Court ruling that found the government had acted in bad faith.
“We were happy to hear the ruling from Justice Griffin. We think the government should abide by it.”
The ruling ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages for stripping teachers of their collective bargaining rights and failing to reinstate them when ordered by the court. It ordered a return to the negotiated collective agreement.
“The move to once again strip class size, composition, and staffing levels from teachers just days after the BC Supreme Court’s ruling showed total disrespect for the law, for teachers and for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. “This government, through BCPSEA, is trying to pretend Justice Griffin’s ruling never happened.”
“Locally in terms of class size and composition that would mean 11 more teachers in libraries and learning support,” Struthers said.
Teachers are also concerned with the offers coming from the employer, the British Columbia Public School Employers Association, which are comprised of zero, .5 and 1 per cent over the next four years.
There is also talk of a ten-year contract.
“Back in June, the BCPSEA started talking about a ten-year deal,” Struthers said. “We are the only union with whom a ten year deal is being discussed. They are just not bringing funding to the table.”
Struthers said she hopes her fellow teachers will endorse the strike vote.
“It will send a good, strong message to government that our bargaining team has our support. It doesn’t mean closing schools. There are 90 days to activate the strike vote.
“Teachers are looking for a deal negotiated in good faith, that respects our work and provides better support for students,” Struthers said.
She says that despite the government’s talk of increasing per student funding, according to Stats Canada, B.C. is still $1000 per student below the national average.
Just abiding by the Supreme Court ruling would make a huge difference, she says
“This government likes to focus on job creation. Restoring class size and composition would mean 6,000 more teachers. Isn’t that job creation?”