Teachers vote for job action in face of stalled negotiations

Teachers in Revelstoke and across British Columbia have voted in favour of a strike if there is no progress in negotiating a new contract by the beginning of next school year, the British Columbia Teacher's Association announced Wednesday.

Teachers in Revelstoke and across British Columbia have voted in favour of a strike if there is no progress in negotiating a new contract by the beginning of next school year, the British Columbia Teacher’s Association announced Wednesday.

“[Teachers] a’re definitely dissatisfied with how negotiations have gone – we’re talking about provincial negotiations,” said Jennifer, the acting president of the Revelstoke Teacher’s Association in an interview.

“We, locally are very respectful,” she added

According to the BCTF, 90 per cent of teachers voted yes in a province-wide strike vote conducted June 25, 27 and 28. About 70 per cent of all teachers took part in the vote – 28,128 in total.

Woolney said the job action would begin Sept. 6, 2011, the first day back at school, with a “teach-only” campaign – if there’s no progress on talks during the summer. She said teachers would continue their classroom duties but would stop doing administrative tasks.

“What it means is no formal report card writing but we will still be in touch informally on their children’s progress,” she said, adding there would also be no supervision during recess and before school. Involvement in extra-curricular activities such as coaching sports teams would be left up to the individual teachers.

School district superintendent Anne Cooper said she was confident local teachers would remain professional and provide “high quality instruction to students” in event of a job action.

As for going on strike, Woolney said it would depend on how negotiations progressed following the first job action. “The series of events after that all depend on what the situation is.”

Negotiations at the provincial level are moving slowly and no decision has been reached on which issues will be negotiated provincially and which will be table locally.

Locally, negotiations have been going well and have been respectful both sides of the bargaining table reported.

Cooper said there has been seven meetings so far and agreements were reached on matters that were negotiated locally last time around. She did not provide any details.

“Because we haven’t conclude our local round of bargaining – we still have a couple of issues to come back to in late-August or early-September – I’d really prefer not to comment on a piecemeal basis for where we’re at,” she said.

Woolney said only that, “the RTA and the board have table numerous clauses.”

“It’s still very up in the air,” she said. “Nothing has been decided provincially, which then guides our local bargaining.”

In a press release sent out on Wednesday, Susan Lambert, the president of the BCTF, said the strong yes vote represented a show of unity amongst teachers and they were prepared to take action “to achieve their goals of improved teaching and learning conditions, fair improvements to salary and benefits, and restoration of local bargaining rights.”

“Facing a concerted campaign by the government and the employer to turn back the clock on teachers’ rights and reverse hard-won provisions on due process, we have no choice but to take a stand for ourselves, our students, and our profession,” Lambert stated.  “The employer is offering nothing and at the same time demanding we make many significant concessions. That’s not collective bargaining. It’s just bullying.”

Negotiations have been complicated by a court decision earlier this year that struck down a law that removed class size and composition out of bargaining.

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