The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is going back to court to challenge the legislation that has put an end to its latest strike action, but teachers will be back on the job once spring break is over.
“We’re very disappointed that the government went ahead and passed this legislation,” said Tom Newell, president of the Nelson and District Teachers’ Association.
“It’s basically imposing a contract because it puts such limitations on the mediation process so we’re not very optimistic that it will lead to a negotiated settlement.”
At a news conference in Vancouver Wednesday, BCTF president Susan Lambert announced that union members will take part in a province-wide vote on April 17 and 18 to decide if they will withhold voluntary extra-curricular duties to protest Bill 22. The legislation gives the provincial government the authority to impose heavy fines for strike action during an imposed six-month cooling-off period.
A second member vote would have to be held with majority support before the union approves any strike action that would defy Bill 22 and trigger fines of $1.3 million a day for the union and $475 a day for individual teachers.
“It’s virtually unanimous that teachers are very disappointed with the government’s implementation of Bill 22 and opinion on how to react to it is varied, but it’s very [strongly agreed upon among teachers] that this legislation is really impeding a negotiated settlement,” said Newell.
Year-end report cards will be completed to allow students to apply for scholarships and post-secondary education, Lambert said.
Lambert appeared to rule out any further work-to-rule action as students return from spring break, but she left the door open for individual districts to begin immediately withholding voluntary extra-curricular duties such as coaching that are done outside of school hours.
Newell said now that the legislation has passed, students and parents are more likely to be impacted than with the teachers’ original strike action.
“More and more locals and teachers are saying that because of Bill 22 they are considering not doing extra-curricular activities. Some teachers are saying the only action we can take is to withdraw volunteer services,” he said.
“I don’t know how that’s going to play out, each teacher will be making their own decision on that.”
— With files from Tom Fletcher