BCTF president Susan Lambert

Teachers will have province-wide vote on further strike action

The B.C. Teachers' Federation seeks to challenge strike action legislation in court.

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.

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.

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.

“We’re a federation of autonomous locals, and yes, they will be making their own decisions,” Lambert said. “The plan envisions a province-wide action, and that would be one that would I guess join up with the local actions that have already been started.”

Bill 22 goes beyond forcing an end to the strike that has had teachers refusing to complete report cards or meet with administrators since last September. It reimposes restrictions on class size and special needs support that a B.C. Supreme Court decision last year ruled were done without adequate consultation. Lambert said that will be a focus of new legal action.

“Bill 22 addresses the judgment by repealing it in one paragraph and reinstating it in the next,” she said. “That’s more than arrogant.”

Education Minister George Abbott returns next week from a 10-day visit to China promoting educational exchange. He said he will appoint a mediator when he returns, to seek agreement within the terms of the government’s two-year wage freeze.

The BCTF did not release the “action plan” worked out during delegate meetings in Vancouver this week, but did indicate that it rejects a provision of Bill 22 that could pay teachers extra if they teach classes of more than 30 students.

Lambert termed the extra pay offer “cash for kids” and called it “totally unethical.”

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