Greater Trail teachers will be brought up to speed on the provincial battle underway between its union and its employer today before casting a vote on whether they support a full withdrawal of services Wednesday, according to the president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is threatening a full-scale walkout should the provincial government leave the bargaining table and legislate an end to an apparently deadlocked labour dispute.
Though a province-wide day of action has some school districts planning lunch-hour and after-school rallies today, it will be a regular day of school for students attending class in Kootenay Columbia.
While the union applied for a mediator to get involved in the year-long contract dispute, and the BC Public School Employers’ Association agreed, B.C. Education Minister George Abbott has since announced that he intends to introduce legislation this week to end the impasse with public school teachers.
“This agreement by our employer to go to mediation appears to be disingenuous because they’ve agreed to a mediator but the political wing who basically is in charge of our employer are saying there is no other solution other than legislation,” said Davidoff.
“I don’t think the employer intends to allow for proper mediation of this dispute, that’s my opinion.”
A vote has been called in anticipation of legislation but the union would still need approval to escalate its job action from the Labour Relations Board, explained Davidoff, calling the process “fluid” and “confusing.”
“The way it’s unfolding, it’s going to be very difficult for teachers to withdraw their services legally,” he said.
Darrel Ganzert, chair of School District 20’s board, said this is a provincial matter that he stays out of.
“The teachers will do what they have to do, the provincial government will do what it has to do and in the end we’re left to pick up the pieces in a way,” he said.
Regardless, Ganzert said the school board will be discussing the current situation with talks of preparation at its budget meeting tonight.
“The government’s got a real balancing act to do because they were ruled a few years ago that stripping contracts was illegal to do so I doubt that they would head down that path,” he said.
“The best that teachers can expect from the government is a no-stripped agreement and a zero per cent increase but I know that isn’t what they’re after.”
Ganzert, who was previously in Davidoff’s role after working as a local teacher for 35 years, said he is personally frustrated by the consistent fight between teachers and the government.
“What it really does, and to me this is the sad part, is it makes teachers who are working extremely hard believe that their work isn’t valued and I think that’s really hurtful.”