Cranbrook teachers keep an eye on talks

After last week’s successful strike vote, local school teachers are ready to act should negotiations stall

Local teachers are watching closely as the BCTF and the provincial government continuing negotiations on a new collective agreement.

“Moving forward, teachers want a fair deal and are waiting for the government to show good faith bargaining in their actions,” said Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook District Teachers Association. “A 10-year contract will not bring labour peace to the province, especially with the disrespectful approach the government has shown to the process thus far. Teachers are watching closely and will decide their next move as a collective.”

In January, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin found for a second time that B.C. legislation imposing contract terms violated teachers’ right to collective bargaining.

However, an appeal court decision last month stayed an order that would force B.C.’s school districts to reorganize around teacher contract terms that were scrapped by the government in 2002 and allowed the government to pursue an appeal of the January ruling.

Balfour said those decisions had an impact on how Cranbrook and district teachers voted in a BCTF strike vote last week, that came down with 89 per cent of educators in favour of job action should they feel it is necessary to further contract negotiations.

“I am proud to say that teachers in our area gave very strong support to the provincial vote,” said Balfour. “The government’s intentional failure to bargain in good faith continues to damage teachers’ relationship with their employers.

“I believe the ‘final straw’ for our teachers was the government’s total disregard for Justice Griffin’s decision on their unlawful actions over the past 12 years and their unwillingness to spend the money to restore class size and composition language and instead waste the money on the application for the stay and the appeal.”

Teachers’ job action will come in three phases, the first two of which have been approved by the teachers’ union.

In phase one, teachers would refuse meetings and communication with administrators and work to rule on hours. Phase two would see teachers participate in rotating one-day walkouts.

Phase three, a full scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.