Valley teachers vote for fall strike action

Most teachers in the Columbia Valley have voted in favour of job action, if provincial contract negotiations don't progress over the summer break.

Most teachers in the Columbia Valley have voted in favour of job action, if provincial contract negotiations don’t progress over the summer break.

Windermere Teachers’ Association president Doug Murray says the majority of the ballots cast by its 120 members — who teach in schools between Edgewater and Canal Flats or work on-call — supported a strike mandate.

“The large majority of teachers here did [vote],” he adds. “We managed to get most of the teachers out, which is really good.”

Provincially, 90 per cent of teachers voted in favour of a strike mandate, with about 70 per cent or 25,282 teachers responding.

Teachers are asking for smaller classes, improved support for special needs students as well as wage and benefit increases.

The B.C. Public School Employer’s Association, meanwhile, is working with a net-zero mandate.

If talks between the two sides don’t progress over the summer, job action will begin as students head back to the classroom. A “teach only” campaign, where teachers do no administrative work, is planned as the first step.

“The teachers are going to basically just focus really in on teaching,” says Murray.

“I think that hopefully it’ll be resolved, but if it isn’t it’s not going to be as usual with things like report cards. The teachers will be reporting in different ways. We’ll always meet with parents and kids, of course.”

Murray says teachers will make their own choices about whether or not to continue running after school activities, and thinks it’s likely extracurriculars will continue uninterrupted.

“We don’t want it to affect the kids, so in our deliberations and our talks leading up to this it was very clear that teachers want to include that in job action,” he said.

School District 6 superintendent Paul Carriere also says he’s hoping to see a resolution to negotiations before the summer break ends but, “as I understand it, bargaining won’t commence until August 23, so that’s not leaving a lot of time for headway to be made before school starts.”

“If all of that comes to pass, I expect we will see some disruption in the system when school starts,” he adds. “But hopefully not. What we’re all hoping for is not to see the system disrupted because it affects obviously kids and people that work in the system and it’s not a positive thing for us.”

While provincial bargaining won’t begin again until the end of the summer, Carriere says local bargaining, which doesn’t deal with salary and benefit issues, is progressing and could wrap up before school starts.