More than 100 teachers protested in Terrace today, criticizing the province for preparing to introduce legislation to end six months of job action.
From 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday Feb. 27, local teachers and their supporters held signs along Terrace’s Sande Overpass and walked surrounding streets to raise awareness about how this provincial move will affect education.
“I think it’s about more than just a contract (settlement),” said Joe Murphy, who teaches at Parkside Secondary School. “I think they’re attacking public education.”
The protests were part of a B.C.-wide “day of action” by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) union, and came after B.C. education minister George Abbott announced late last week that he’s preparing legislation to end the dispute.
“For the last 10 years, public education has been grossly underfunded,” said Murphy about why he joined in the protests today and what teachers in the province have been fighting for. “And a good education system is hope for the community.”
Should teachers’ job action end, it would involve teachers taking back supervision roles, meeting again with administrators and parents, and putting out report cards, which they haven’t been doing since September in hopes of forcing the province to negotiate wage and benefits increases.
The provincial decision to contemplate legislation came after a labour ministry fact-finding report concluded it was unlikely teachers and the province could find common ground upon which to settle.
Education ministry staff are expected to be finished writing the legislation this week, said Terrace’s BCTF president Karen Andrews.
Local teachers are saying that by forcing an end to labour disputes it’s education that will suffer, and they’re calling for mediation instead as a solution.
“We’re protesting an imposed settlement rather than a negotiated one,” said Caledonia Senior Secondary teacher Michael Bruce. “Who knows what kind of language will be used.”
Teachers have been working without a collective agreement, trying to negotiate more money for education while the province has said it won’t be spending more.
Teachers want pay raises, more preparation time and more money for special needs students.
A Labour Relations Board hearing tonight will determine if a mediator should step in, and if teachers can take further action with their strike.