Revelstoke teachers rallied in Grizzly Plaza to mark one year since they’ve been without a contract.
A small group of teachers held placards and at the Victoria Road intersection, getting honks of support from some drivers.
Revelstoke Teachers’ Association (RTA) president Bill MacFarlane has spent much of the past year at the bargaining table in the Lower Mainland, but was back in Revelstoke for the rally.
He said he felt the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has been at a disadvantage from the start, saying the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) anticipated the government would step in: “[The BCPSEA] knew that Abbott would legislate right from the beginning, so, right away, that puts them at an advantage. They’ve got all the power … through the government.”
Currently, the year-long struggle is held up awaiting a court decision on the appointment of mediator Charles Jago. His appointment was contested by the BCTF, who claimed he lacked mediation experience and is biased. A judge has yet to rule on the teachers’ challenge.
MacFarlane says he’s concerned the whole process is heading towards an imposed contract. “We’ve lived through imposed contracts before. They don’t work,” he said. “They just make everybody unhappy. It contributes to bad feelings in the school, bad morale as far as the relationship between the employer and the employee.
“The best way to resolve any of that is of course through negotiated settlement, which we couldn’t achieve because there was never any intent on the part of BCPSEA to come to an agreement in my opinion,” MacFarlane said.
B.C. teachers have been in a battle with the government for the past year when their last contract expired in June, 2011. The teachers’ union has argued for an increase in wages, benefits and better working conditions, including smaller class size and composition, a reduction in case loads, more class preparation time and improved learning specialist ratios.
But the government has maintained all public sectors must accept a net-zero contract, which has resulted in a tumultuous stand-off between the union and the education ministry.
Last September, the union entered phase one of job action, resulting in no teacher supervision during recess, and before and after school care; no teacher attendance in administrative meetings; and no teacher-written report cards. Job action escalated in March to a full-scale walkout that lasted three days.
Shortly after, the government passed Bill 22 legislation that forbade further strike action and imposed a six-month “cooling off” period, which completes in August.
One month later, the teachers’ union voted in favour of withdrawing from extracurricular activities.
~with notes from Katie Bartel/Chilliwack Progress/Black Press