Teacher negotiations continue as contract set to expire

By Laura Stovel

The contracts of teachers across BC are set to expire at the end of June and the Revelstoke Teachers’ Association (RTA) and the Revelstoke School Board appear to have made little headway in reaching a collective agreement.  This may lead to a strike vote by teachers towards the end of the month.

RTA representatives cite a recent BC Supreme Court ruling that declared that legislation limiting the scope of bargaining for teachers was unconstitutional.  They want to be able to negotiate conditions such as class sizes in this bargaining period, a right that was taken away from them by the BC government in 2002. (See our articles of April 19 and April 21).

Revelstoke School Board chair, Allan Chell, said that the court’s decision gives the province 12 months to address the situation. He stressed that negotiations are going on at the provincial level between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association which represents the government. The Revelstoke board will act in accordance with those negotiations, he said, highlighting another difference between the two sides: the board prefers that the main negotiations take place at the provincial level whereas the RTA and BCTF also emphasize local negotiations.

If negotiations fail, BC teachers will take a strike vote on June 24, 27 and 28. “A strike vote will only be taken” if no progress towards an agreement is made, said RTA acting president, Jennifer Wolney.

If teachers vote for job action, a three-phase process would begin in September, she said. Phase one would be a ‘teaching only’ phase. Teachers would not do supervision and they would do no formal reporting or take part in ‘meet the teacher’ nights. They would continue to communicate informally with parents and their involvement in extracurricular activities would be “up to the teacher.”

A phase two job action could be implemented at the provincial or local level. “That could be a rotating strike,” Wolney said. The third phase could be a full strike.

In October 2005, BC teachers went on strike for two weeks to protest the imposition of a government- legislated contract.