BC teachers were granted permission to strike one day per week by the labour relations board this morning, as long as they give two days notice.
However shortly after the province introduced legislation to resolve the contract dispute, and have extended the previous collective agreement for a cooling off period.
The province says once the legislation goes into effect teachers will not be able to strike as long as the cooling period is on.
The legislation includes appointing a mediator to try for a negotiated settlement, but also has a provision to fine teachers 475 dollars per day if they go on strike.
Chilliwack teachers association president Katharin Midzain says she has concerns over who will be the mediator.
“We’re hoping that the mediator will be neutral and one that is on the list that was agreed to by BCTF and BCPC earlier in the process. Certainly the last time they appointed anybody it was their own man”
Any contract can’t impose new costs on the employer, but can include wage hikes if the mediator can find cost savings elsewhere.
BCTF president Susan Lambert says she doesn’t like that the a mediator has to stick with the net-zero mandate, but education minister George Abbott defended the move.
“They want a mediator, but they only want a mediator under terms which are different than the terms which would apply to every other public sector union in the province. And I can’t imagine how disappointing that is not only to me but to every other public sector union in the province of BC.”
Abbott says it’s hard to say how long it will take the legislation to be passed.
“We’re now hearing that Mr. Dix and the NDP will be voting against it and will be opposing the bill. I gather they’re wanting extensive debate. So depending on how extensive that is it could take up to two or three weeks, or it could take just a few days.”
Teachers still have the option to walkout until the legislation gets final vote.