Teachers plan next move in attempt to repeal back-to-work legislation

Province votes to pass Bill 22, expect it to be passed into law today

BCTF president Susan Lambert

BCTF president Susan Lambert

While the B.C. Liberals prepared to legislate teachers into a contract this week, educators across the province were making alternate plans.

Though Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, wouldn’t tell the News what the next course of action will be, she says the group of 41,000 teachers will explore every possible avenue available to them to reverse Bill 22. That will happen during the BCTF’s annual general meeting this weekend (March 17-22).

“This legislation will be bad for everyone,” Lambert said. “It’s the worst-case scenario, and we will be resisting it as strongly as we can.”

The Education Improvement Act – or Bill 22 – comes nearly one year after contract negotiations between teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association began. While talks centred around class size and composition, as well as teacher prep time, the two sides were ultimately polarized over the government’s unwillingness to diverge from a two-year “net zero” wage mandate.

Education minister George Abbott said the bill imposes a six-month “cooling-off period” and sets up the appointment of a mediator to look at the non-monetary issues on the table, such as class size and composition. The legislation extends the current contract terms to June 2013, imposing the wage mandate that most other government unions voluntarily agreed to. It gives a yet-to-be-named government-appointed mediator until June 30 to seek agreement.

Liberal house leader Rich Coleman moved to end debate of the bill Monday afternoon and the government majority voted to pass his motion. Bill 22 is expected to be passed into law later today (Thursday), ensuring that schools will return to normal operation after spring break.

Meanwhile, educators currently on spring break are awaiting decisions to be made at the AGM. Among those is Vanessa Fehr, public relations co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association job action committee and a teacher in the Greater Victoria School District.

“It’s unfortunate that spring break occurred right as this issue was breaking down,” Fehr said. “If there seems to be a dying off or waning in the engagement, I can tell you, it’s probably because we’re exhausted. We feel like we’re under attack.”

NDP house leader John Horgan said earlier in the week the government should consider his proposal to delay the legislation and seek an independent mediator appointed by the Labour Relations Board.

Lambert says the Education Improvement Act is characterized by at least four different negative aspects. The bill curtails bargaining rights and imposes a “skewed, mock-mediation” process; ignores a Supreme Court ruling on class size and composition; removes any obligation for government to adequately fund the system; and proposes a $30-million learning improvement fund – $137 million less than would be required to compensate for inflationary costs over a year’s time, Lambert said.

“We cannot understand why government would table such a legislation, and we cannot understand why they would ram it through the legislature,” she said. “The only thing I can conclude is that government has been in control of these negotiations since the start, and since the start has made sure that they failed so that we could get legislation, so that they could legislate us back to work.”

-–with files from Tom Fletcher

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The Victoria woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Anita Troop officially turns 100 on Sunday and cards are pouring in from around the world. (Courtesy Marina Miller)
Cards roll in from around the world for West Shore 100 year old

About 100 cards have come for the woman who turns 100 on Sunday

A cardboard man bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s royal cipher has been placed in a window at the Royal Theatre for at least several days. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Mysterious cardboard figure appears in Victoria’s Royal Theatre window

The identity of the figure, which was moved there amid cleaning, remains unknown

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read