Monday, Feb. 27 marked the planned day of action for teachers across the province. The BC Teachers Federation has encouraged its counterparts to start their work day at the first bell, and finish it at the last bell. Meeting were held during the lunch hour, and an after school rally took place outside of the schools to exhibit the disappointment among BC teachers regarding the government’s stance on contract talks.
The day of job action was intended to have as little impact on the students as possible, and the BCTF continues to encourage teachers not to discuss the job action with students.
Teachers in the Cowichan Valley are concerned about school closures, and overcrowded classrooms. Funding cuts to our specific school district have been devastating. At one time, Lake Cowichan had seven schools in the area, today we have three. Since 2001, 194 schools have been closed across BC and there are more than 12,000 overcrowded classrooms.
There has been some talk as well suggesting that every exploratory class offered in every school in BC must have 30 children enrolled in order to have that class run. This is an unreasonable solution for small communities such as the Cowichan Lake area. There are simply not enough students to make that work. This would mean the end of all classes that are not a part of the mandatory curriculum. “They need to stop talking about numbers and start thinking about the students,” says one teacher at Lake Cowichan Secondary School.
A BCTF news release came out on Friday, Feb.24, that stated “In the wake of a labour ministry report today finding that a negotiated settlement is highly unlikely, BC teachers are calling upon the government not to impose a contract through legislation but rather to enable other labour relations mechanisms to achieve a fair agreement.”
The BC Teachers Federation is asking that a mediator or arbitrator be brought in to help achieve a solution to these ongoing concessions.
“We can only conclude that from day one this government had no intention whatsoever of bargaining a collective agreement with teachers” says Susan Lambert, BCTF President.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb.28 and 29, teachers across BC will vote on whether to escalate the limited “teach only” job action to a full-scale walkout. Results of the vote will be made public on Thursday, Mar.1.