Under the guise of a “cooling off period” the government has taken aim at the teachers of BC. The bullying legislation, ironically titled “The Education Improvement Act” will worsen conditions in every way. Bill 22 further erodes teacher bargaining rights once again, and forces us into a mock mediation that serves a predetermined end, and is designed to make teachers complicit in stripping the remaining protections in our collective agreement.
The two-year 0-0 rollover of the collective agreement will see each teacher lose $2,800 in purchasing power, falling further and further behind. All of our objectives have been completely ignored.
The parties are ordered to continue collective bargaining in “good faith” within 72 hours of the legislation coming into force. All along, BCPSEA sat at the bargaining table bolstered by the threat of legislation, refusing to negotiate. This legislation tips the scales entirely in their favour. With Bill 22 in BCPSEA’s hands, teachers will be reduced to begging at the table.
The minister will choose the mediator, using tightly controlled terms of reference, to deal with the concessions that BCPSEA/government were seeking at the bargaining table. The mediator will attempt to force agreement on the following (in the words of Bill 22):
· “effective feedback and evaluation of teachers to promote improvement” (due process, discipline, and dismissal)
· “alignment of professional development with teaching needs” (professional autonomy)
· “scheduling and selection of teachers suited to student needs” (seniority, post and fill)
In yet another cynical ploy, teachers will be prohibited from bargaining class size, average class size, staffing levels, ratios or caseloads for two years, with this prohibition lifted at the end of the school year in 2013, a month after the next provincial election. Even the existing provisions of Bill 33 are being totally erased, with the consent and consult requirements in Grades 4–12 gone. Superintendents, principals, and even the minister can decide which classes may exceed 30 students. A “learning improvement fund” as announced last fall by government will be established by this bill. This act is not about education or the needs of students; it’s all about politics!
Bill 22 includes severe penalties in the event of an illegal strike. Fines for each day of non-compliance are: $475 against teachers, a minimum of $2500 against officers of the BCTF, or local, and a minimum of $1.3 million against the Federation.
In reaction to the legislation, BCTF President Susan Lambert said, “Parents and teachers need to know this is a cynical political ploy not crafted with the needs of schools and students in mind.”