B.C. public school teachers have voted 89 per cent to give their union authority for strike action in three stages.
Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers Association, said she is pleased that local teachers got behind the job action.
“We are over the moon with the voting results,” said Balfour. “My membership is very active in the voting. I am very proud of everyone for taking a stand.”
B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said there is no set schedule on when work-to-rule action would begin.
“There will be no job action tomorrow, there will be no job action next week,” Iker said after the vote results were in Thursday evening. “It will depend entirely on what is happening at the negotiating table and whether or not the government and the employers’ association are prepared to be fair and reasonable.”
After a year of bargaining sessions with an expired contract, the BCTF has not yet presented a specific wage and benefit demand. Education Minister Peter Fassbender urged the union to present its opening position as negotiation sessions resumed Friday.
Union members were briefed before the vote on the initial wage offer delivered by Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for B.C.’s 60 school districts. It describes pay increases totalling 6.5% over six years.
Fassbender reiterated that class size and composition are up for negotiation as well as wages and benefits. Iker said the strike vote shows the members’ rejection of “unfair and unreasonable proposals that would undo the class size, class composition and specialist teacher staffing levels we just won back in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling.”
More than 29,000 teachers voted, with 26,000 saying yes to the strike option that can be activated on 72 hours’ notice for 90 days.
Details of the strike plan have emerged from several school districts, where BCTF members have voted to authorize the first two phases.
Phase one is refusing meetings or communication with administrators, and working to rule on hours, except for pre-arranged voluntary activities. According to one summary released by the government, teachers are to arrive at school no more than one hour before class time and leave by one hour after classes, with no supervision of students outside of class time.
Phase two is rotating one-day walkouts in districts around the province. Phase three, a full-scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.
With files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press