UPDATE: Teachers have voted in favour of job action and given notice that a full-scale strike will start Monday, March 5 and likely go until Wednesday March, 7.
Though schools in School District 20 will be open, superintendent Greg Luterbach has advised in an open letter to parents and guardians that students should remain at home as they will not be supervised and buses will not be operating.
Teachers in B.C. are awaiting whether further action will be taken in the strike that has so far only affected administrative duties.
The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has been given the go ahead for a more in-depth strike if negotiations with the province don’t improve.
On Monday, teachers across B.C. protested the government’s handling of the negotiations as well as the cuts to education over the past 10 years. At Maclean Elementary, teachers exited school just after the end-of-school bell carrying protest signs.
Jill Spearn, who teaches at MacLean said that the day of action is in protest of the pending legislation expected to come from the Minister of Education. The legislation would force teachers back to full duties. ,
“We’re predicting from his words last week that they are drafting legislation as we speak to legislate teachers back to work,” Spearn said outside the school. “It’s also a protest against the general direction that this Liberal government has taken education and the lack of funding for education.”
Spearn said teachers are outraged at the government over the $3 billion that’s been taken out of the education budget in the last 10 years at a rate of $300 million a year.
“We still have areas of our contract that were stripped, that they were told by the provincial government that they were supposed to put back in place and have not done so,” she said. “So there is a whole bunch of issues for teachers it’s not the monetary aspect of it.”
Though she admitted that a fair wage increase to keep up the cost of living is something they are asking for.
“We have fallen to ninth place in Canada, with regards to salary and benefits, she said. “We used to be in the top one or two. We have a premier that is the second highest paid in the country, we have the number one child poverty in the country in British Columbia and I think their track record with regards to the social programs and needs of the province are not being met.”
On Tuesday, Education Minister George Abbott introduced Bill 22, dubbed the Education Improvement Act which introduces fines for an illegal strike.
The bill limits teachers’ bargaining power as well, taking away the power to bargain on things like class size, staffing levels and caseloads until two years down the road. It also includes a wage freeze for teachers for the next two years.
In the event of an illegal strike, individual teachers would be fined $475 a day, union officials $2,500 a day and the BCTF a minimum of $1.3 million a day.