Most Creston parents got the message last week and kept their students home from school today as teachers took to the sidewalks to protest their lack of a contract.
“We’re getting lots of public support,” Creston Valley Teachers’ Association president Rebecca Blair said this morning. “And teachers are really motivated to get our message out.”
At Adam Robertson Elementary School, teachers were carrying protest signs as they walked the perimeter of the property in the rain. A welcome indication of support came from a neighboring resident who arrived with fresh-baked cinnamon buns. Teachers said only one student had arrived to attend school and he was the child of parents who were away last week and didn’t get the school board message last week asking parents to keep their children home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We had a study session to discuss Bill 22 this morning at 10 a.m. and teachers are certainly not happy that the government doesn’t intend to sit down and negotiate the issues,” Blair said.
B.C. teachers, designated an essential service, got the OK in February from the BC Labour Relations Board to withdraw services for three days. BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) members voted 87 per cent in support of a strike last week.
BCTF president Susan Lambert told a press conference on Thursday that she understood the decision to shut down schools for three days would have an impact on working parents.
“We understand that this will cause you concern,” she said. “As I said, we do not come to this lightly. But the conditions in schools in B.C. have worsened over a decade.
“Over a decade, we watched our class sizes increase, we watched the complexity of class composition become so untenable that it has caused us a high degree of anxiety as we are unable to meet the needs of each and every student in our classroom.”
Blair said a public rally is scheduled for the Canyon Street Walkthrough Park at noon on Tuesday.
But she didn’t hold out much hope that the teachers’ protests would have much influence on the provincial government.
“The government doesn’t seem to be blinking so far,” she laughed.
Bill C-22, which the provincial government calls the Education Improvement Act, is currently being debated in the legislature. It would provide for a cooling-off period and assign a mediator to attempt to find a way to negotiate a settlement. The government continues to stand firm that it will put no more money toward salary increases.
A leaflet being distributed by teachers says that BC teachers’ salaries are now ninth in the country and demands restoration of class size and composition guarantees that were stripped from contracts in 2002, an action the BC Supreme Court ruled as illegal.