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Teacher strike vote won’t result in full walkout

Maple Ridge Teachers Association president George Serra said the government’s ignoring of court ruling on class size was ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’  - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Maple Ridge Teachers Association president George Serra said the government’s ignoring of court ruling on class size was ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Teachers took a strike vote this week, and the local union expected the result to be overwhelmingly in favour of job action.

The official results were expected to be announced Thursday by 9:30 p.m.

“I’m anticipating a resounding ‘yes’ vote,” said George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, estimating that locally the strike vote will be more than 90 per cent.

“It’s always pretty strong.”

He clarified there will not be dramatic action immediately. A full-fledged walkout by teachers is not permitted under essential services legislation in B.C.

“We have to call it a strike vote,” said Serra. “It’s an organized job action during bargaining.”

He said job action by the BCTF generally escalates, and pointed out that the 2011 withdrawal of extra-curricular activities was preceded by other job action. First, teachers withdrew playground supervision and meetings with school administrators.

The BCTF pledged in announcing the strike vote that any initial action will not include immediate school closures or disruption for students, will not stop teachers from participating in extra-curricular activities, and will not affect report cards or communication with parents. Escalation of job action will depend on progress in negotiations.

Anecdotal experiences lead Serra to believe there is more public support for teachers this time around.

“The added piece, that has made people really look twice at our issues, is the court case.”

Having a supreme court judge “clearly outline” that he government agenda during bargaining was to push teachers into job action is damning for the government, he said.

The judge made those remarks in ruling that provincial legislation limiting teachers’ bargaining rights on class size and composition is unconstitutional.

The teachers say they are taking a strike vote over a lack of progress in negotiations. Government is asking for a 10-year deal with two years offering no salary increase, one per cent or less for the next four years, followed by four years with increases based on a complex indexing plan.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says teachers should stay at the table and negotiate a settlement, and called the strike vote provocative.

The B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils has pleaded for calm.

“This is particularly important as the province moves forward with important changes to curriculum, assessment and the graduation program,” said BCCPAC president Terry Berting.

Once a strike vote is taken, the union has 90 days to activate it with job action.

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