Strike updates – Full Strike apparently starting Tuesday

British Columbia’s teachers intend to launch a full-scale strike beginning next Tuesday, potentially keeping students across the province out of the classroom for the remainder of the school year.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation told its more than 40,000 members in an email Wednesday evening that the union planned to serve 72-hour strike notice.

A day earlier, the union announced teachers had voted overwhelmingly in favour of a full-scale walkout, after several weeks of one-day strikes that rotated between the province’s school districts.

“We believe that at this time, the best way to increase the pressure at the bargaining table is with increased job action,” the union email said.

“Given growing public support, our high strike vote, our determination and resolve, it is time to act.”

The email said bargaining is expected to continue “non-stop” throughout the weekend and it’s possible an agreement could be reached before next Tuesday.

However, the email also advised teachers to retrieve any personal items they might require during the summer before they leave at the end of the week.

“Next steps
The BCTF Executive Committee met today to discuss our next steps. The BCTF bargaining team has reviewed and revised our bargaining package. As we have stated repeatedly bargaining is about compromise, but only if compromise moves us forward. We believe that at this time, the best way to increase the pressure at the bargaining table is with increased job action. Given growing public support, our high strike vote, our determination and resolve, it is time to act.

The Executive Committee has decided that June 16 will be a study session day throughout the province as part of Stage 2 action. The study session will give members the opportunity to review our revised bargaining package. Furthermore, we suggest during the study session that members take the time to do what you are doing so well. Continue to tell your stories about life in classrooms and schools. Send these stories to local and provincial media, write to MLAs and trustees, post on Facebook, and tweet to your followers. Your local will organize the study sessions and your local president will send you information once plans are in place.

We are also serving three working days notice to proceed with full strike action beginning Tuesday, June 17. We believe that the combined actions of bargaining hard and the solidarity of standing together are the key ingredients needed to get a deal that works for teachers and for our students before June 30 and hopefully sooner.

Please know that both parties are currently involved in discussions. Our intention is to bargain non-stop throughout the weekend. We believe that a small, but important window to negotiate a fair deal exists and we want to take every opportunity to get that deal. We will continue to provide members with any new information.

As a precaution, however, and because the situation is so fluid, the Federation recommends you take personal items that you will need during the summer home with you this week.”

“…But if binding arbitration was to be used today, it presumably would include many more cost items, not the least of which would be the thorny and expensive issues of class size and class composition. The fact both parties likely fear that an arbitrator could rule against their self-interest on these issues is another big reason for the lack of enthusiasm for that model.

And frankly, I’m not sure binding arbitration could adequately deal with the class size/composition situation. That’s because it’s a very complex issue, and it’s as much about a philosophical split between the employer and the union as it is about funding.

The BCTF wants fixed rules in place that govern how many special needs students can be in a particular classroom, while the employer argues the system needs flexibility to deal with what can  be  very complex situations (the employer also argues fixed ratios are actually discriminatory against special needs kids).

The union’s position inevitably translates into more classrooms being created, and therefore more teachers being hired (this fits with the BCTF’s constant struggle for control of the classroom). The employer’s position would presumably not create the same number of classrooms.

Each side exaggerates the merits of its own position, and the dire consequences of the other’s. There’s no question the issues involved are vital, but I wonder if most people even know what is meant by “special needs” when it comes to diagnosing children.

Do people know there are actually 12 “categories” of special needs? They include: physically dependent, deaf or blind, moderate to profound intellectual disability, physical disability and chronic health impairment, visual impairment, hard of hearing, autism, severe mental illness, mild intellectual disability, moderate mental illness, learning disability and gifted.

The definitions of what constitutes each category are shaped by diagnostic findings of the American Psychology Association, and those diagnostic tools are used to diagnose students when their parents or their teacher(s) think it’s necessary to do so.

And some of the definitions can change. Take autism, for example. In 2000, about 1,300 kids were diagnosed with autism, and this past year the number was 6,750.

Experts say this phenomenal growth is because much more information has become known about autism, and the diagnostic tools are vastly different now than they were back in 2000.

I’m providing this kind of detail because I think it shows the complexity of the situation may be beyond the skill set of a traditional labor arbitrator. Best to leave the decisions surrounding this issue in the hands of those actually running the system – which means teachers and administrators.

The BCTF has made a compelling argument that more funding is needed to address class composition situations, while the employer has made an equally good case about the need for flexibility in the system. Hopefully the two sides can still achieve some middle ground in the current dispute.”

“…The media and government spokespeople have confused the lockout action with talk about extracurricular activities. The employer is saying that we’re allowed to volunteer, but that is not what the actual lockout order states. And, in order to protect ourselves as individuals and as professionals, we have to follow the lockout order.

It’s horribly confusing. We’re essentially being told “You can’t do that,” then the exact same person is telling the public “Of course they can do it. It’s their choice.” But it’s not. Not unless we want to push the limits of the law.

Now, a lockout is not an uncommon employer reaction to strike action. The idea is that employees aren’t doing their jobs, so a lockout is imposed to make them end strike action by showing how little the employer is bothered by the withdrawal of work. It’s playing hardball.

But the hardball here isn’t actually a ball.

It’s your kids.”

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