Newspaper article The Canadian Press

BC Teachers Consider How to Respond to Back-to-Work Legislation: BC Teachers Ponder Next Step in Job Dispute

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

BC Teachers Consider How to Respond to Back-to-Work Legislation: BC Teachers Ponder Next Step in Job Dispute

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - The union representing British Columbia's 41,000 teachers is remaining mum on how it will react to a recently enacted law that has forced members back to work.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation is currently holding its annual convention in Vancouver, and president Susan Lambert said Sunday that about 700 delegates will spend the coming days debating their reaction to Bill 22.

Passed into law in Victoria Thursday, the bill bans teachers from any further walkouts, forces them to resume their normal duties, imposes a six-month cooling off period and sends the months-long contract dispute to a mediator.

Lambert refused to comment on any of the convention's resolutions, noting that members were "debating the full range of possibilities" and those included doing "nothing to everything."

"It's in committee, which means it's a private conversation-debate that we're having in committee," she said. "I cannot comment on the nature of the recommendations. The sentiment, as I've said, is outrage."

The BCTF convention is taking place while Education Minister George Abbott is visiting China, helping set up two new B.C.-certified schools in Shanghai.

Abbott said Bill 22 invests an additional $165 million into classrooms and sets out a mediation process to help the federation and their employer, the BC Public School Employers' Association, reach a negotiated deal.

"I think we've put a very constructive path in front of the BC Teachers' Federation after ... a year of almost zero progress at the bargaining table," he said in a phone interview.

Abbott said mediation will allow each side to explore areas that haven't been explored to date.

"A process doesn't guarantee an outcome, but a process at least gets the parties to a place where they can better understand what's possible within an agreement," he said.

Back in Vancouver, Lambert said teachers began debating resolutions Sunday morning.

She said those discussions will continue until Monday night, and a decision will be made by the end of the convention, which wraps up on Tuesday. …

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