Teachers across B.C., including those working in the Sooke School District, voted in favour of taking job action this September if there is no progress at the provincial bargaining table.
Nintey per cent of the ballots netted a “yes” vote, according to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. The Sooke Teacher’s Association wouldn’t release the local voting results.
“None of the locals are releasing their individual results. We are bargaining provincially,” said Patrick Henry, president of the STA.
If September rolls in without a contract, teachers will continue teaching students and running extra curricular activities under a “teach only” job action, but will relinquish administrative tasks, such as attending mandated meetings.
Henry said teachers are calling this Phase 1 of the job action and will begin the first day of the school year, Sept. 6, 2011.
Two of the largest issues instigating the vote are class size and composition, the ratio of children with special needs in the classrooms. In April, the B.C. Supreme Court overturned legislation that banned teachers from negotiating class limits and composition during contract talks.
“Composition is always going to be the biggest issue,” Henry said, adding that current class configurations make it “impossible to offer the best possible education to students.”
With large class sizes, Henry said it gives each child fewer minutes a day with their teachers’ personal attention. “This is undermining what teachers are trying to do,” he said. “It is restricting opportunities for students.”
B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert said the strong “yes” vote shows that teachers are united and prepared to take action over learning conditions, salaries, benefits and local bargaining rights.
“Facing a concerted campaign by the government and the employer to turn back the clock on teachers’ rights and reverse hard-won provisions on due process, we have no choice but to take a stand for ourselves, our students, and our profession,” Lambert said in a release.
The vote was held across the B.C. on June 24, 27, 28 and 70 per cent of teachers participated. If teachers do not see any improvement in classroom conditions, Henry said teachers’ unions will hold another vote on further job action.