LRB rules teachers can walk off the job 

Whistler teachers set to vote on job action later this week

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE WPNN.ORG - Whistler, BC; Feb. 27, 2012: Local teachers staged a rally in Whistler Village as part of a day of action meant to demonstrate solidarity on Monday.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde
  • Whistler, BC; Feb. 27, 2012: Local teachers staged a rally in Whistler Village as part of a day of action meant to demonstrate solidarity on Monday.

A ruling from the LRB handed down yesterday stated that teachers can withdraw their teaching services for three days in one week and one day a week after that with weekly reviews by the LRB starting March 12.

The LRB ruling also restricts picketing and states that BCTF members can't block access to schools.

Teachers are currently voting on an escalation of job action.

The provincial government has also taken its next step in this dispute. Education Minister George Abbott put Bill 22 in front of the legislature Tuesday (Feb. 28) in Victoria. The Education Improvement Act brings in a cooling off period and a mediator. The cooling off period through to August makes it illegal for teachers to strike and imposes stiff fines for violators.

The legislation is expected to take all of this week to make its way through the legislative process.

The legislation, once it has passed through the legislature will over ride the LRB decision handed down Tuesday.

"Teachers would prefer to be engaging in a meaningful mediation process to resolve this dispute rather than escalating it," said BCTF President Susan Lambert. "But given the government's ongoing refusal to meet us half way, we're compelled to try to increase the pressure on both our employer and government."

Whistler teachers gathered at the Whistler Conference Centre after school on Monday (Feb. 27) to stage a protest rally. A similar rally was held in Squamish.

Beth Miller, the B.C. Teachers' Federation representative in School District 48, said teachers in the Sea to Sky area are frustrated with the whole situation.

"It was pretty disingenuous on the part of George Abbott to be scratching his head on Thursday saying, 'Oh well, I guess we will be spending our weekend writing legislation.' If you ask me, they have had that legislation written since last June," said Miller. "I don't think the government has ever had any intention of truly bargaining with teachers."

Abbott responded to that accusation during a scrum with reporters in the legislature on Monday. He said there was no such conspiracy and if the government never intended to reach a negotiated settlement the teachers were in on the conspiracy because there was a year of talks to get the sides to where they are now.

According to Miller, the provincial government has never moved from its "net zero" position while the teachers have made alternate proposals and moved off positions. She said teachers from Squamish to the northern end of the Sea to Sky corridor are frustrated with the whole process of negotiating a work contract with the province.

"We feel like we're being bullied," she said.

Miller predicted that teacher morale is going to drop once the legislated contract is in place.

Pique will have more on the ongoing developments affecting schools in Thursday's paper and updates will be posted online as new information becomes available.

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