Coquitlam teachers vote on job action
Some 2,000 unionized teachers in School District 43 are voting tomorrow on whether to escalate their job action to support a negotiated contract settlement.
Voting began Tuesday after the Labour Relations Board agreed to an application by the BC Teachers' Federation that would permit teachers, considered an essential service, to walk off the job for three days with two days notice.
After the initial three-day strike, the board said the teachers could strike one day per week.
Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Teresa Grandinetti couldn't comment on the outcome of the vote — expected Thursday — but she said morale is high and teachers are determined to win a fairly negotiated settlement.
She said teachers staged a day of action Monday to raise awareness about their ongoing dispute with the provincial government over their collective agreement. Teachers spent their lunch breaks in study sessions and some walked around outside their school grounds with signs to protest a legislated agreement.
At Terry Fox secondary in Port Coquitlam Monday afternoon, about 30 teachers wore black and posed for photos with signs they made showing what they usually do on their lunch breaks to support students.
"We're doing this in solidarity," explained Robert Harding, an English teacher, who said teachers want a fair settlement and don't want a contract imposed on them by the government.
Harding said the government is trying to divide teachers and should be focusing on services to special needs students that were denied when Bills 27 and 28 were passed.
The government has offered to improve class size and composition with a $165-million Learning Improvement Fund but the BCTF says the money is not enough to made a difference for students.
Steve Sainas, one of the teachers who organized the protest, said teachers want the public to know that they work hard to support students.
Grandinetti said the teachers want mediation to avoid a legislated contract but want the province to bargain fairly and with serious intent.
"I would like the government to sit down and actually talk properly, and what that means in the end is — what bargaining is — is the process of going back and forth," she said.
If teachers' job action is approved, the soonest teachers could be off the job is Friday — if a majority of teachers vote in favour of job action.
The dispute is ramping up after a fact-finder found the BCTF and the BC Public Schools' Employer Association were far apart on the issue of wages because the union is seeking 15% over three years and the government has a net zero mandate.