BC Teachers’ Strike: Escalation, Part 1 (…to be continued)

by Yule Heibel on October 17, 2005

The BC teachers’ strike, which started 10 days ago on October 7, continues across the province, and Gordon Campbell’s government continues to refuse to negotiate. Today, around 15,000 people rallied in downtown Victoria — from City Hall to the provincial legislature — to show their support of the teachers. (Other reports claim it was 20,000.)

Today’s protest was part of a day of action that saw unionised workers across the city walk off their jobs in a snowballing show of solidarity with the teachers. The legal wrangling behind the teachers’ struggle isn’t uncomplex, but here are some CBC background links that illuminate the role of the courts and of law in the dispute so far, including Mary Ellen Lang‘s op-ed piece. She notes,

At the present time, most B.C. teachers (even those who didn’t vote) regard Bill 12, the B.C. Liberal law that nullifies teachers’ right to collective bargaining (again), as bad enough to warrant civil disobedience. [More…]

Personally, if I hear one more quote by our government’s Labour Minister, Mike De Jong, who has been hiding behind “the law” and emphasising that the government won’t negotiate with “law breakers” (i.e., the teachers), I’ll spit. It’s his sanctimonious posturing that should be against the law. As Jinny Sims (the BC Teachers Federation president) noted, “There is a big difference between breaking the law and having a law designed to break you. We will not be broken.” [See here for more.]

Even news outlets I associate with traditionally more neo-Liberal-friendly turf (although I could be wrong here) are printing editorials that urge local school boards to speak up and show some leadership — not least by standing up to government bullying. In the Western Penticton News Allan Markin writes:

For starters, the B.C. Liberals need to understand the difference between arrogance and leadership. For example, it was arrogant to go against declarations made by the International Labour Organization and international law that education is not an essential service. It would have been leadership to admit their mistake and restore fair collective bargaining to which the teachers are entitled. Instead, the B.C. Liberals continue to pander to parents who share their politically driven point of view that education is an essential service. What is even more disturbing, however, is the use of this specious reasoning to justify political arbitrariness and bullying. [More…]

Paul Willcocks, a journalist whose editorials were often an intelligent relief from the more usual hand-wringing or strong-arming intemperance in the local press, has a blog. His entry today on the strike offers a surprising snapshot of a “typical” protester at today’s rally, and he also offers useful historical background. Makes for interesting reading…

Meanwhile, further job actions are virtually a certainty.


This entry is my second on this topic; the first, Oct.10/05, is here.

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