Mediation going to be critical for BCTF and province

Since the BC Government passed Bill-22, putting a halt to a teachers union strike two weeks ago, tensions are still high on both sides.

Since the BC Government passed Bill-22, the back-to-work legislation to halt a teachers union strike two weeks ago, tensions are still high on both sides.

Last Tuesday the BC Teachers’ Federation announced its members won’t vote weather to walkout or cut extracurricular activities until late April. This came after BCTF president Susan Lambert said the union is preparing to launch a legal challenge of Bill-22, in an attempt to force the BC government to back down.

“Our members are angry,” Lambert told reporters Mar. 21. “They think this bill is disrespectful to the profession of teaching.”

However, now that Bill-22 has been passed it is unlikely the BC government will repeal the decision as Minister of Education George Abbott pointed out he is pleased they are on the path to a constructive mediation process with all parties.

“I’m obviously pleased that we’re seeing an end of phase one officially,” Abbott said during a teleconference with reporters. “I’m pleased that BCTF have indicated they’re prepared to do report cards. Very pleased that they have suggested a couple names for potential mediation purposes, I think that’s a very positive thing. I think that overall we’ve laid out a constructive path through the mediation process, the cooling off period and we’re hopping that the BC camp and it’s membership will embrace that.”

So far the BCFT has complied with the back-to-work legislation after seven months of work action that seemed to be going nowhere after a three day strike two weeks ago. However, at the moment, says Chris van der Mark, the coming weeks in mediation will be critical for future agreements.

“We try to make sure that [teachers]can do their work as best they can and learning is optimal, van der Mark said. “That’s not going to change one way or another as a result of this. I think so much right now hinges upon the ability of the mediation process and the cooling off process to be productive. To what extent that’s possible is really going to guide these next few months if not this next year.”

So while certainly on paper Bill-22 ends the current job action, it is still yet to be seen just what the reception of that will be by the provincial BCTF and of course how the memberships go from there.

Although the BCTF is still considering a vote on future strike action Abbott remains firm on the current Bill-22 legislation and says mediation will hopefully get all parties on side.

“We certainly won’t be reversing legislation,” Abbott said. “We undertook Bill-22 because we believed that students of the 2011-2012 class has suffered enough in terms of the phase one impact of no collaborative meetings, no report cards.”

“It was time to move the dispute to a different path, a constructive path of mediation and the cooling off period. We remain committed to that and we look forward to seeing all parties including BCTF embrace that path.”