TEACHERS are set to return to work tomorrow after a three-day strike which saw schools here and across the province in the Coast Mountains School District sitting empty.
Although banned from picketing, teachers took part in demonstrations and handed out leaflets outside of schools giving their side of the current standoff with the provincial government over wages, benefits and classroom conditions.
Yesterday teachers were joined by members of other unions on the Sande Overpass where they waved signs to make their point.
And today, teachers will participate in a demonstration at the school district office from 4-5 pm.
“We would like to draw attention to the issues that we are currently having in our negotiations with our employers,” said Karen Andrews of the Terrace and District Teachers’ Union. “We want to show our opposition to Bill 22 and the bullying tactics of the provincial government.”
Bill 22 is provincial government legislation, introduced in the legislature last week, which would ban further strikes for six months while a mediator looks for common ground to end in a contract agreeable to both parties.
But both parties are far apart on wages and benefits because the province is sticking to its position of not providing any money for wage increases.
If teachers want more money, the province says, it will have to come from within their existing benefits.
That follows a policy being applied to the provincial public sector elsewhere called “net zero.”
Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin is disappointed with Bill 22, saying it won’t do much for education in the province.
“It doesn’t do anything to improve the learning in our classrooms,” said Austin, who is also the NDP critic for education.
He said Bill 22 would increase class sizes and provide less support for special needs students.
Until Bill 22 is passed, teachers will be able to continue to put pressure on the provincial government by striking one day a week with advance notice.
Bill 22 could be passed and proclaimed later this week.
Coast Mountains superintendent Nancy Wells said that until she knows how long the strike action will continue, she is unable to say how the district will cope with repeated strikes.
So far, schools have been closed but principals, vice principals and support workers were on hand to deal with any children who arrive.
FirstStart, StrongStart, the Hazelton After School Sports Club, JumpStart at Parkside here in Terrace, the Kitimat Child Care service and the PACES child care service were not affected because teachers don’t work on those programs.
The recent three-day strike is an escalation of teacher job action which has seen teachers refusing to perform supervisory and administrative tasks since September.
Secondary school students here and elsewhere did walk out of classes March 2, saying they supported their teachers. More students took part in the walkout at Thornhill Junior Secondary than at Caledonia Senior Secondary or at Skeena Junior Secondary.