As a result of the unwillingness of the provincial government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association to offer any improvements to class size, class composition, and other important learning conditions for students, as well as the employer’s unfair wage demands, teachers will begin rotating strikes on Monday, May 26, 2014.
“Last week, teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,” said BC Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker. “But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts, and attempts to divide teachers, parents, and students.
“BC teachers began low-level job action to put pressure on government and BCPSEA to bring fair offers to the table. Unfortunately, the employer has steadfastly refused to table any improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers. Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students’ learning conditions, in BC Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.”
The rotating strikes will begin on Monday, May 26 and continue May 27, 28, and 29. All school districts will be impacted on one of those days. All schools will be open on Friday, May 30. Any extension of the rotating job action will depend on events at the bargaining table.
The rotating closures are part of a two-stage strike plan voted on by teachers in March. During that vote, teachers gave their bargaining team an overwhelming mandate to begin low-level job action and then move to rotating strikes if meaningful progress was not made in negotiations. In all, 29,301 teachers cast ballots—89% voted in favour of the two-stage job action plan.
“Teachers do not take job action of any kind lightly,” said Iker. “As teachers, we care deeply about our students and their education, but with another round of brutal cuts looming, we need to act now. With BC funding education $1,000 per student less than the national average, British Columbians must take a strong stand and convince Christy Clark’s government to reinvest in our students. It is time for government to make education a funding priority.
“Teachers remain committed to reaching a fair deal at the negotiating table that respects our work and provides better support for our students. If this government is serious about labour peace they should offer teachers a fair deal and show some good faith. We will remain at the bargaining table. There are six days left before the first schools shut down. I encourage Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender to be in touch, move off their unreasonable demands, and empower BCPSEA to negotiate a fair deal.”
The planned schedule of school closures (by school district name) is as follows:
The BCGEU is organizing a community meeting to discuss the provincial government’s surprise decision to close the Victoria Youth Custody Services centre.
The meeting will be moderated by University of Victoria professor Michael Prince.
Key stakeholders have been invited. BCGEU members and the public are also encouraged to attend.
Date: Tuesday May 20, 2014
Location: Reynolds Secondary School (theatre), 3963 Borden Street, Victoria
In 2010, 182,276 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) entered Canada, compared to just 110,861 in 2002. Combined with those TFWs still in Canada last year, there is reported to be close to 500,000 TFWs working in Canada today.
BC takes a disproportionately large snare of the temporary workers, with just under 5o,ooo arriving in 2012- or close to a quarter of the national total-even though BC only has about 13 percent of the population. In BC, there are currently more than 70,000 workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The TFW Program was originally designed to attract skilled employees, agricultural workers and live-in caregivers to address temporary labour shortages. More recently, the program has shifted to providing a new supply of less-skilled workers for the food and beverage, construction, and retail industries.
"There was no evidence of any particular labour shortage in those occupations at the time," said Jason Foster, an Athabasca University academic coordinator who has researched the program's transformation. "It was simply a matter of trying to provide these employers with other labour supply options in terms of how to address their labour concerns."
While economic theory would suggest that employers should increase wages to incent workers to enter the workforce or move to their worksite, the use of the TFW Program provides a ready supply of workers, such that employers are not required to adjust wages to meet the demands of the Canadian labour market.
Foster said Western Canada's economic boom during the early 2000s did result in labour shortages in certain industries·, such as construction, but the trend was not universal. When the global recession nit in 2008, the expected drop-off in temporary foreign workers never happened.
Temporary Foreign Workers are beholden to the company they work for because their work permit-and thus their "right" to be in Canada-is employer-specific. They do not have the right to switch jobs if they are treated poorly, or receive a better offer from another local employer. If they raise concerns about safety or working conditions, they are often sent home.