Ruling allows teachers to walk

British Columbia's Labour Relations Board has ruled public school teachers may initiate further job action and walk out of the classrooms

British Columbia’s Labour Relations Board (LRB) has ruled public school teachers in the province may initiate further job action and walk out of the classrooms.

A full withdrawal of services for up to three instructional days is allowed by the ruling, providing prior notice of at least two school days is given.

Following that, teachers may also be off the job one out of five days a week, again with notice of not less than two days.

Falling on the cusp of Education Minister George Abbott tabling legislation on Feb. 28 to force an end of the teachers’ job action, the LRB is effectively providing B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) members a legal route to escalate the current limited strike action.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Federation president Joan Erb says LRB’s decision on a limited withdrawal of services is “reasonable.”

“It provides the best of both worlds to both sides.

“Parents will be happy because there will be two days minimum notice given.”

The thing that really surprises her is picket lines are not allowed in the ruling, she adds.

Because LRB has not set essential-service limits for International Union Of Operating Engineers (IUOE) members, the school support staff can’t be barred from work duties by any BCTF disruptions, she explains.

That is good news in the sense that their IUOE colleagues won’t be faced with any blocked entries, Erb says, adding she is meeting with the local IUOE president this week to find out how those members might react to escalated strike action.

BCTF president Susan Lambert says that given its lack of success in getting government to meet them half way, its members are compelled to try to increase the pressure on both its employer and government.

Erb says she hopes the teachers don’t go out until after the weekend because they have an important Pro-D [conference] on today (March 2).

“So we are extremely hopeful that we will not be escalating job action before Monday. We have Dr. Martin Brokenleg coming in; we have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours organizing this Pro-D event.”

The legislation will see an end to the withdrawal of non-essential services underway since last September, prevent any further withdrawal of duties, and assign mediation.

Meanwhile, the teachers have been without a contract since June 2011.

“I’m hopeful that once the mediator is appointed and we know who that mediator is we can come to some agreement,” adds Erb.