Members of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) will meet at the end of this month to vote on a job action plan that, if approved, would set the stage for an eventual province-wide teacher strike.
A confidential memo obtained by Global News outlines the four-stage plan, which would see gradual increases in job action if mediated contract negotiations with the employer continue to be fruitless.
According to the memo from BCTF president Teri Mooring, Stage 1 of the plan would see teachers continue with the pressure campaign that has been ongoing for months. That includes writing to MLAs, sharing stories and messaging on social media, distributing flyers, and holding rallies.
After a supervised strike vote, which will be held no earlier than Feb. 15, Stage 2 ramps up the action significantly.
If members vote in favour, teachers would then withdraw from all extracurricular activities, including parent-teacher conferences, supervision of sports teams and recreational activities, and student fundraising activities.
If a deal still can’t be reached, BCTF members will then hold a vote on moving to Stage 3, which would see 20 per cent of teachers in each school district begin daily rotating walk-outs on a school-by-school basis.
The escalation would ensure each teacher would only walk out for one day of the five-day work week.
Finally, after holding a second strike vote, job action would culminate in a full-scale, province-wide strike unless a deal can finally be negotiated.
The BCTF’s representative assembly of roughly 300 members will vote on the job action plan at a meeting in Richmond at the end of this month.
Even if the plan is approved, however, job action won’t escalate to Stage 2 until mediator David Schaub withdraws from the dispute.
In a statement posted to social media Thursday, the BCTF affirmed they are “fully committed to the Labour Relations Board mediation process,” and that no strike vote can be held while that process continues.
“It has been a year of bargaining and of course we are talking to members about contingency plans IF mediation concludes without a good deal,” the union said. “We hope the employer will agree to meeting dates soon.”
Teachers have been without a contract since June and have been bargaining for a new one since February. Schaub last met with the union and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) in December.
The BCTF has said it needs to hire almost 400 new teachers, and is having trouble attracting applicants due to B.C.’s teacher salaries, which the union says are the lowest in Western Canada.
A report Schaub delivered to both sides in November painted a bleak picture of the negotiations and the possibility to reach a deal, saying there was a “disconnect” standing in the way.
The report recommended teachers accept the BCPSEA’s latest offer of a three-year contract with an annual two per cent salary increase, no change to contract language regarding class size and composition, and a $25.6-million fund to be spread over the three-year contract period to help ease workplace issues.
The BCTF rejected the recommendation, however, asking for more negotiating time to address key concerns about wages and teacher recruitment.
Education Minister Rob Fleming told Global News this week that Schaub plans to meet with both sides in February.
The minister added he was optimistic 2020 will be a “breakthrough year” towards reaching a deal.
Read the full BCTF memo below
—With files from Keith Baldrey and Shelby Thom