89% of teachers vote to show they’ll back a strike — if one is needed

A total of 26,051 teachers voted yes in a province-wide vote conducted March 4–6, 2014. In all, 29,301 teachers cast ballots, of whom 89% voted yes, the BC Teachers’ Federation announced Thursday evening.

“With this vote, BC teachers have sent a very clear message to the BC government: It’s time to negotiate in good faith, take back the unreasonable proposals, and offer teachers a fair deal that also provides better support for students,” BCTF President Jim Iker said in a March 6 statement.

Here are the official results of the vote:

Ballots Issued:29,454 
Ballots Returned:29,301 
Ballots Spoiled:70 

However, the strike vote does not signal any immediate action.

“There will be no job action tomorrow, there will be no job action next week,” Iker said. “Teachers now have 90 days to activate the strike vote with some sort of action. There is no set timing for when we will begin. It will depend entirely on what is happening at the negotiating table and whether or not the government and employers’ association are prepared to be fair and reasonable.”

The BCTF remain committed to negotiating a deal at the table, he said.

“That is our goal. The vote is about putting pressure on both sides to get an agreement. We will work very hard to get that negotiated settlement without any job action. A strike vote is a normal process in labour relations and helps apply pressure to both parties during negotiations.”

If job action becomes necessary, Iker said it will occur in stages, but any initial action will not:

  • Include immediate school closures or disruption for students;
  • Ask teachers to stop participating in extracurricular activities; or
  • Affect report cards or communication with parents.

“Any initial job action will be administrative in nature and have no impact on student learning,” Iker said. “If, at some point talks stall or government does not move on key areas, that initial job action could escalate into rotating strikes. Once again, it depends on events at the negotiating table. There will be no full-scale walk out as a result of this vote. Such action would require another province-wide vote of the BCTF membership.”

He said the decisive nature of the union membership’s vote shows they recognize that “the government has tabled unfair and unreasonable proposals that would undo the class size, class composition, and specialist teacher staffing levels we just won back in a BC Supreme Court Ruling.” said Iker. “The employer’s salary offer is also less than what was given to other public sector workers and ignores how far BC teachers have fallen behind their colleagues across Canada.”