UPDATED: School District 51 teachers begin three-day strike

Teachers in B.C.'s Boundary region began a legal, three-day withdrawal of services on March 5.

Teachers in Grand Forks and the surrounding area gathered at Gyro Park for a CUPE-organized rally on Tuesday. A three-day withdrawal of services began this past Monday.

Teachers in Grand Forks and the surrounding area gathered at Gyro Park for a CUPE-organized rally on Tuesday. A three-day withdrawal of services began this past Monday.

Monday saw the start of a three-day, full-scale withdrawal of services by teachers across B.C.

Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association (BDTA), pointed out that information leaflets will be distributed at various schools during the job action.

“We have to look at the details,” he said Monday. “The LRB (Labour Relations Board) ruled we are not allowed to block any of the entrances of school sites. Technically, we’re not allowed to call it a picket, but we will be handing out leaflets and information to the public.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) organized a rally on Tuesday, March 6 in Gyro Park, which included several speakers.

“Teachers (walked) from the BDTA office (near Flexus) and met at Gyro Park,” stated Sabourin.

According to the LRB ruling, teachers can withdraw their services for three days this week and then one day a week every week after that, provided that Bill 22 legislation hasn’t been introduced.

Members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) met on Feb. 28 and 29 to discuss the escalation of job action in response to the government’s proposed Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act.

According to a BCTF press release, Bill 22 seeks to impose a net-zero contract, restrict the ability to negotiate improved learning conditions and eliminate fundamental civil and labour rights for teachers.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Education, Education Minister George Abbott stated Bill 22 demands careful debate and full understanding by all members.

“Bill 22 sets a cooling off period and suspends the teachers’ union strike action while calling on the assistance of a mediator,” he stated. “It also implements the $165-million Learning Improvement Fund and other measures that will play a fundamental role in the future of education in our province.”

Abbott and the ministry stated they were disappointed by the BCTF’s decision to hold the strike.

“A strike of this nature will significantly disrupt student learning and creates tremendous concern for parents and families,” he said. “Parents are encouraged to find child care arrangements.”

Sabourin added he hasn’t heard anything from the government about legislation as of Monday.

“(As of Monday) the legislation (was) in its second reading, so it (was) still under debate. Once it gets done with its second reading, it will then have to do a third reading but it depends on how long the debate goes,” Sabourin said.

“It will be my assumption that the earliest the bill could be passed and brought into law would the end of this week and very possibly into next week.”

In a letter to parents in School District 51 (SD51), Superintendent Michael Strukoff noted that during the three-day strike, “there will be no classes, buses will not run and parents need to keep their children home.”

Earlier this week, Strukoff stated, “There seems to be a pattern between the disputes between BCTF and the government. I truly hope both parties find some alternatives and allow the kids to continue with school and things return to normal by the end of spring break.”

Spring break is the last two weeks of March, beginning on March 19.

The SD51 website will be updated to keep parents in the district informed and any questions can be directed to Strukoff at 250-442-8258.

Teachers will be back in the classroom tomorrow (March 8).

Of the 32,209 teachers, 87 per cent (27,946 teachers) voted yes in the province-wide vote conducted Feb. 28 and 29.