Summarizing the strike thus far as school approaches
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
After a long summer of striking, lockouts, and negotiations, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Liberals still can’t seem to find common ground, as of this article’s writing. The only sure fact is that the 2014/15 school year, whether it happens or not, is on the horizon.
Officially starting on June 17, the 2014 strike has lasted almost three months thus far. There’s been a final attempt to get the public school year back on track, with renowned mediator Vince Ready at the table as of August 28. However, even Ready has stated that both parties still can’t seem to meet halfway.
“They still are a long ways apart,” Ready told CBC that same afternoon. “I’ve asked them to return tomorrow [August 29] with their bargaining committees and present me with some proposals that will hopefully lead to some serious negotiations and the continuation of negotiations.”
In a unique turn, with the public school year ideally set to begin September 2, there seems to be a separation between the strike and the schools. Parents are now concerned with whether or not their children will be back in classrooms on time, yet many still want the strike to end at an appropriate pace.
The 2014 strike is yet another in a long run of the BCTF using their time to advocate for improved teaching conditions.
Since 2002, when the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act (Bill 28) was enacted by then-Education Minister Christy Clark, BC public school teachers have found many of their rights removed, including their ability to discuss class sizes and staff-to-student ratios.
In early 2011 BC public school teachers were without a contract, as the government was given a 12-month period to reverse the changes made from Bill 28. By February 2012, little change had taken place; the main purpose of introducing the Education Improvement Act (Bill 22) was for Bill 22 to end by June 2013 so further discussion could happen at a later date. A mass strike resulted in March 2012. The government then attempted to fine the BC teachers who continued to strike, a case which the BCTF took to court with Justice Susan Griffin. Justice Griffin found the attempted fine unconstitutional. In January of this year, the BCTF won and was owed $2-million in damages by the Liberal government. In February, Education Minister Peter Fassbender stated the provincial government would appeal the ruling.
In July, Finance Minister Mike de Jong stated the BC government would be willing to pay parents $40 a day in savings were the strike to continue into the public school year.
Throughout the strike, BCTF president Jim Iker has defended the strike, and argued against BC government spending and earlier regulations like striking teachers’ not being allowed to attend their students’ graduations this year.
“We know we need government to show some flexibility,” Iker told the Globe and Mail. “I’m hopeful.”