Teachers continue talks despite strike vote

Teachers have voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action, however, negotiations are ongoing. - James Murray/Observer
Teachers have voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action, however, negotiations are ongoing.
— image credit: James Murray/Observer

A strike vote among teachers doesn’t necessarily mean schools will be behind picket signs.

Of 29,000 teachers provincewide, 89 per cent have endorsed possibly taking job action as a way of pressuring the government during contract talks.

“We are still at the bargaining table and progress is being made and any action will depend on what happens at the negotiating table,” said Brenda O’Dell, North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association president.

Phase one of any job action would see teachers not participating in meetings or communicating with administrators, while the next phase would be  rotating, one-day strikes in districts around B.C.

The third and final stage would see a total walkout of all teachers, but another teachers’ vote would be needed.

Teachers now have 90 days to activate the strike vote with some sort of action. There is no timeline for action to possibly occur.

Among the contract issues of contention of class size and composition and wages.

“The employers’ bargaining team, for its part, has tabled a comprehensive initial position, including a 6.5 per cent wage increase in the first six years,” said Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

“Class size and composition are on the bargaining  table, and that’s where the discussions need to occur. We will continue to seek a long-term agreement that’s fair for teachers, affordable for taxpayers, and that puts the interests of  students first.”

O’Dell insists teachers are not pleased with the proposed contract coming from the employer.

“It (strike vote) sends a strong message to government to bring resources to the table,” she said.

“We are looking for a fair deal for teachers and better support for students.”

Greg Kyllo, Shuswap MLA, wouldn’t speculate on a possible back-to-work order if teachers launch a full-scale strike.

‘There’s probably been discussions (in the ministry) about best-case and worst-case scenarios,” he said.

The situation is being watched closely by the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.

“The desire of the school district is for stability in the system for students, parents, teachers and the school district,” said Glenn Borthistle, North Okanagan-Shuswap superintendent.

“Our hope remains that an agreement will be reached at the provincial bargaining table that will resolve this situation and we encourage all sides to stay focused on reaching agreement regarding the issues that are on the table.”


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