The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) representative assembly has passed a plan that empowers the union to call for a strike vote if necessary.
The teachers’ union has been bargaining with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) for a year and says laying out next steps is a normal step for the union.
In a memo emailed to teachers, BCTF president Teri Mooring said the union “is 100 per cent committed to the current mediation process” and “will not initiate any job action or strike of any kind while mediation is ongoing.”
“The mediator, who was unavailable in January, has assured us that we will have meeting dates this month,” Mooring wrote in the email, which is similar to a BCTF memo obtained by Global News last month.
The union’s plan includes four potential phases if talks with the BCPSEA break down.
The first phase focuses on continuing the BCTF’s advocacy efforts and does not require a strike vote.
The second phase requires a province-wide strike vote that will be called if the BCTF’s executive committee believes additional pressure is required.
The action would mean the removal of administrative tasks but would not have an impact on extracurricular activities or volunteering. This is a change to the previous plan, which indicated the union would consider pulling teachers from extracurricular and volunteering activities.
“This part of Phase 2 is designed to expose the teacher shortage and put pressure on administrators and school boards,” reads the email.
“Phase 2 does not require teachers to be on the picket line or fully withdraw their services.”
Phase 3 would kick in if the union’s executive committee decided additional pressure was needed at the negotiating table, and would not occur without an additional province-wide membership vote. A vote of support in Phase 3 would trigger rotating strikes.
“Unlike 2014, each teacher association will be able to organize the rotation locally,” the email reads.
“The rotations will be designed to keep maximum pressure on the board offices and government while being equitable for all members. In this phase, timing will be key, including lessons learned from previous rounds.”
The final phase would be a province-wide strike and would require a vote of members across B.C.
“It has been a full year since bargaining began and there hasn’t been enough progress,” reads the email.
“Contrary to the Education Minister’s comments in the media, his bargaining team has not removed the massive concessions that would delete class composition entirely, reduce support from specialist teachers, and make class sizes larger. The BC NDP promised better, teachers and parents expected better, and our students deserve better.”
The union is asking for a salary boost that will bring teacher wages in B.C. closer in line with other provinces. According to the union, B.C. has the second-lowest starting salary for teachers in the country and the lowest overall wage west of Quebec.
“There’s no way we can solve our teacher shortage without shrinking that pay gap. The BCTF position continues to focus on all teachers and students having better working and learning conditions,” the email reads.
“A deal that meets the needs of both parties is achievable but it’s going to take political will from the BC NDP government and new funding to get the job done.”