In another attempt to break the bargaining deadlock, the BC Teachers’ called on the government to agree to binding arbitration for compensation, benefits and preparation time. It would exclude the Charter of Rights issues before the courts.
At the end of the first week without school, teachers are engaged in study sessions and rallies around the province today Teachers have a chance to talk about the implications of this move to seek arbitration.
BCTF president, Jim Iker, says if the province agrees to arbitration, the BCTF executive will hold a quick vote on a recommendation that members return to work and reopen schools. BCTF policies require a membership vote before a job action can be ended.
Dropping a government-proposed clause E80 is a condition for arbitration. This is a clause that would invalidate the court win by teachers and has been identified as a major stumbling block to any negotiated agreement. Iker says “we will continue to stand up for our Charter rights."
The BC Supreme Court has ruled that contract provisions on class size and class composition were illegally stripped from the collective agreement by 2002 legislation. These clauses were restored to the contract by the court decision because any law that violates the Charter of Rights is automatically invalid.
The BC government got a stay of enforcement of the ruling so it could appeal the decision. A hearing in the BC Court of Appeal is scheduled for October. In the meantime, to evade the court decision, the province has been trying to force the BCTF to agree to terms that would invalidate the effect of the court decision.
Minister of Education Peter Fassbender has called for putting aside the court issues, even as the government has tried to make the issues moot.
The BCTF is still open to mediation, which could provide a quicker resolution to the issues in the strike. However, the government has refused to put any additional resources on the table and mediator Vince Ready has said the parties are too far apart for mediation.
The BC Federation of Labour has organized rallies in support of teachers at cabinet minsters’ offices during the first week of the strike. Most of the BC Liberal constituency offices have been closed because the MLAs don’t want to have to defend the government to protesting parents and teachers.
A major BC Federation of Labour rally in Vancouver is taking place at the provincial cabinet offices at the Trade and Convention Centre on Friday afternoon.
Teachers are getting lots of support from many parents. A parent-developed website seeking donations for hardship funds for teachers raised $10,000 in contributions in the first couple of days (familiesfundingteachers.ca). The group is calling for parents to donate the $40 a day the government is giving parents of children under 13 for each day the strike continues.
Some 13,000 viewers watched Iker’s call for arbitration, which can be viewed at the BCTF livestream channel.
Larry Kuehn is the B.C. Teachers' Federation's Director of Research and Technology.
Photo: flickr/Christopher Seesums
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