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Briefly: July 1, 2011

Strike vote Teachers throughout British Columbia have voted strongly in favour of taking “teach only” strike action beginning when students return to school September 6.

Strike vote

Teachers throughout British Columbia have voted strongly in favour of taking “teach only” strike action beginning when students return to school September 6.

In ballots cast on June 24, 27 and 28, 70 per cent of teachers in the province voted 90 per cent in favour of striking. In total over 28,000 teachers voted, with 25,282 voting yes to taking action.

The “teach only” strike, if bargaining goes that far, will see teachers perform regular classroom teaching duties along with any and all activities that involve students or students’ parents. Teachers, however, will not be fulfilling any administrative duties, including report cards, staff meetings, playground supervision, submitted attendance and other responsibilities.

Teachers are pursuing strike action in response to a provincial government that they see as unwilling to work with teachers on collective bargaining issues. Powell River District Teachers’ Association president Cathy Fisher said the Liberal government is intending to take away bargained collective agreements by outlining their own policy objectives and then initiating “corrective legislation” to strip any interfering agreements.

“That doesn’t sound like a government that’s willing to sit down and negotiate,” said Fisher. “We teach our children to sit down and talk about things, to work out their differences. And our government isn’t prepared to do that.”

BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Susan Lambert said in a press release that the strong response from teachers shows they are united and prepared to take action for their goals, including improved teaching conditions, fair salary improvements and the restoration of bargaining rights.

“We have no choice but to take a stand for ourselves, our students and our profession,” Lambert said in the press release. “The employer is offering nothing and at the same time demanding we make many significant concessions. That’s not collective bargaining. It’s just bullying.”

Fisher also expects the government to attempt to introduce legislation to reverse a court decision earlier this year that reversed previous legislation that took away teachers’ rights to negotiate class size and levels of educational support for students with special needs. A judge declared the legislation unconstitutional in part because of limited consultation with BCTF before its adoption, something Fisher anticipates the government will change by going through with the bare minimum of conversation before reestablishing similar legislation.

Fisher said there is only one bargaining session scheduled for the summer and, although difficult to predict, she expects little progress to be made. Fisher assured that the full commitment of the teachers remains to students and that beyond the “teach only” strike any increased action by BCTF would first go to a vote by its membership.

“I’m really thrilled with a strong mandate,” said Fisher. “That gives our bargaining team the support that they need in order for the government to take them seriously.”

Missing youth

A hasty recovery on the part of authorities brought a happy ending for a 14-year-old boy who went missing after being separated from a group near Grace Harbour, about 20 kilometres north of Powell River.

On Monday, June 27 at about 4 pm the boy became separated from his youth group, which was visiting the area from Seattle, Washington for a kayaking trip in Desolation Sound. The boy became lost while hiking back from a lake a short distance from the group’s camping spot, according to RCMP.

The group searched until about 9 pm before calling the RCMP who, along with Powell River Search and Rescue, Canadian Coast Guard and air support from Canadian Air Force Search and Rescue 442 squadron, searched the area.

At about 1 am the crew aboard the coast guard vessel spotted the boy on the shoreline near Isabel Bay. The boy had a few cuts and bruises but did not require any treatment and was returned to his group. The missing boy had only a pair of shorts and a T-shirt on when he went missing and was not prepared for a night outdoors, said RCMP.

Powell River RCMP Sergeant Cam Muir said authorities involved in the search should be commended for their efforts and for the quick recovery of the boy.

“It was excellent because within an hour of receiving the call we had resources deployed and beginning the search,” he said. “So it was a really good response.”