Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Teachers' Strike Update

In one of my previous post, I talked about the upcoming teachers' strike. Well, it's now into its second week and no sign that it will be over pretty soon. Just to recap:
- after months of negotiation, there were no agreement. Contract expired June 2004
- teachers' union held a strike vote with 80+% voting to strike.
- government pre-empt by tabling legislation (Bill 12) to impose (extend) expired contract to June 2006
- teachers walked off before legislation passed
- Labour Relations Board (appointed positions) ruled strike to be illegal
- BC Supreme Court sided with LRB and rule union in contempt
- Government declared that there is no way they are willing to talk to law-breakers
- BC Fed of Labour and various other unions pledged their support to the teachers
- Supreme court freeze assets of BC Teachers Federation and declared that teachers cannot be paid their strike pay.
- Unions organized a day of protest where over 10,000 workers descended on the lawns of the legislative buildings in Victoria (capital of BC) and effectively shut down most services within the Greater Victoria Region.
- Premier finally held a press conference to say that he "see nothing wrong with the teachers accepting the imposed contract for another 9 months with no pay increases while the negotiation/bargaining process is being reworked."
- Government appointed a special prosecutor to see if criminal contempt charges should be brought against the union and its members.
- Business leaders held press conference to denounce the unions' actions and declare that it is a shame that support was being pledged to "law breakers" (Bill 12 became law). NB: Bill 12 is actually in violation of International Labour laws so are the business leaders denouncing the Liberal government for breaking International Labour laws?
- News media showed recent polls of support for teachers (57%)
- Teachers are defiant and stressed that their strike is not about pay but better quality education (class sizes and additional funding for resources).

It's a fine mess and it seems that the government is determined to propose and pass legislation to get their way and in the meanwhile, the children suffers. I am obviously distraught at the heavy-handedness of the government and the refusal of key players (e.g Supreme court) to stand up to something that is so obviously unfair (the removal of the teachers rights to fair compensation and the right to strike).

Right now, it seems that both sides are quite dug in and probably so in order not to lose face. It probably will take a third-party to broker a deal so that neither side will be seen as the loser. Only time will tell but let's hope that it can be resolved within this week as any longer, the higher grade students will be behind in their preparations for the Provincial exams which will impact their chances of attending university. An updated news story is available here.

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