With Bill 22 slated to be passed through the BC Legislature this afternoon, teachers across BC are preparing to come together to craft a plan of action to resist the negative impact of the legislation.
“Teachers know that this government’s so-called Education Improvement Act is going to have the opposite effect in our classrooms throughout the province,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Bill 22 hurts students and attacks teachers’ rights. It will only make working and learning conditions worse.”
Lambert said Bill 22 will have negative impacts in classrooms because:
- It wipes out virtually all current class-size and composition limits found in the School Act
- It places no limit on the number of students with special needs in any given class
- It places no limit on the number of students in Grades 4 to 12.
In addition, Bill 22 eliminates free collective bargaining because:
- It imposes a government-appointed “mediator” who must operate under a narrow mandate focused on employer concession demands
- It imposes concessions regarding seniority, post and fill, layoff and recall, evaluation and dismissal, control of professional development must be part of the new contract
- It makes any strike action an offence subject to heavy fines for members, representatives, and the union itself
- It attacks the fundamental Charter right of freedom of association.
Lambert said that Bill 22 ignores the BC Supreme Court ruling last year, which found that contract- stripping legislation regarding class size and composition was unconstitutional.
“This legislation removes parts of Bills 27 and 28 that were found illegal, and then restores them word-for-word on the next page,” Lambert said. “Services to our students with special needs will be further diminished under Bill 22, especially since school boards will face a $100 million funding shortfall next year.”
With the education budget frozen, Lambert questioned why the government is engaged in an extensive advertising campaign in print, on radio, and on television. “You have to wonder why the Education Ministry would spend millions of dollars on an ad campaign to attack its own public school teachers who are struggling in classrooms every day to meet the needs of students. It’s these very teachers who have maintained the quality of our public education system in the face of government neglect and underfunding.”
This weekend, Lambert and about 700 teachers will come together for the BCTF’s 96th Annual General Meeting to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Bill 22 and the teachers’ response to it will naturally be among the items at the top of the agenda. While much of the meeting is open to the media, the debate around collective bargaining and Bill 22 will be held in closed sessions.