Teachers, the public and members of several trade unions rallied together at City Hall Wednesday to show their support and inform the public of some of the issues they face.
“Today’s rally is so the public, different trade unions and the teachers can voice their support for a strong public education system and for the government to ensure that fair negotiated contracts are done, no legislated contracts,” said Tom Newell, president of the Nelson and District Teachers Association.
Hundreds gathered with signs that showed both support for teachers and disapproval of Bill 22, while nearby traffic displayed approval with the frequent honking of horns.
“We’re on strike, we are withdrawing our services and we are not allowed to picket at schools so all of our withdrawals have been demonstrations of one form or another,” said Newell.
“I think it’s really important that we help the public understand the issues, so this is an opportunity for the public to hear speakers talk about it as well as teachers.”
Representatives from groups such as the BC Nurses Union and the BC Government and Services Employment Union spoke out in support of the teachers.
“This is a critical fight, and we’ve got to fight it together,” said Della McLeod of the BCGEU.
Newell said that about 400 people were gathered in total to show their support.
“It’s important that the idea of legislating collective agreements is really problematic for a lot of people,” he said.
“Most of us Canadians think the parties should be negotiating… to legislate really wrangles a lot of people.”
Teachers will go back to schools Thursday and Friday and after spring break they will see what action they’ll take to continue the process.
“We will not accept bill 22 without some further action, that’s for sure,” said Newell.
“The government holds all the cards, they’re the ones that can decide whether they withdraw the legislation. If they go ahead with it then we’re forced to continue some kind of action and we’re now deciding what it is we’re going to do.”