An announcement Sunday that teachers will resume picketing this week is bound to disappoint those were still hoping that B.C. public schools might open on schedule Sept. 2.
Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), told hundreds of union members who had gathered in Kamloops for a special representative assembly and summer conference that they have more work to do before they’ll get a fair deal with government.
“We need to increase the pressure once again,” he said, while declaring that pickets will soon be in full force across the province. “We have asked our locals to ramp up the pressure on schools boards and local MLAs.”
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association had said it would lift its lockout until Sept 2 for teachers who wanted to partake in previously arranged professional development during the final week of August or prepare their classrooms for the coming school year.
It now appears that won’t be happening.
Iker also urged members to begin thinking about how they can influence school board elections in November. “Right across this province, teachers need to take an active role in electing school board trustees who will advocate for public education,” he said. “We need to push candidates to find out where they stand on issues like underfunding, bad-faith bargaining, unconstitutional laws and contract stripping.
“We need to support incumbent trustees and candidates who have or will speak out for adequate funding. British Columbians need more school trustees like Vancouver’s Patti Bacchus, who will be here tomorrow and who is unafraid to challenge this government.”
That brought sustained applause, as did his call for more trustees who are willing to put their jobs on the line to back their beliefs, as happened in Cowichan Valley in 2012, when trustees were fired for refusing to balance their budget. They were replaced with an official trustee, former Surrey superintendent Mike McKay.
Unions have had an influence in previous municipal elections. In 2011, for example, 25 of the 29 contestants who were backed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council won seats. So, too, did 51 of 72 hopefuls endorsed by CUPE-BC.
Unlike Alberta and Ontario, B.C. also allows teachers and other school staff to seek election to boards of education, as long as it’s in a different district from where they are employed. BCCPAC has called on government to disqualify school board employees from serving as trustees in any district.
During his speech, Iker also praised union members for using blogs, Twitter and Facebook to spread their message. The result has been greater understanding from parents and getter media coverage of teacher issues, he said. “They cannot report on the strike without mentioning the need to improve learning conditions. The odd time they miss it, hundreds of you descend on them online,” he said to hearty applause. “That’s so cool.”
He challenged government to agree to mediation with Vince Ready starting Monday, but there was no immediate word from Education Minister Peter Fassbender and no realistic expectation that would happen.
According to a tweet from Global BC’s Keith Baldrey, the BCTF distributed a memo to members this weekend titled: Intensify the pressure and stay the course. It called for rallies outside the offices of Premier Christy Clark and Labour Minister Shirley Bond, he tweeted.
“Folks, this dispute will go long into September,” Baldrey added.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.