Teachers file Additional Complaint with International Labour Organization

The BC Teachers’ Federation has filed another formal complaint against the BC government in its ongoing case before the United Nations agency responsible for international labour law.

“We believe it is very important to continue to bring the standards expected in the international community to bear here in British Columbia,” said BCTF President Jinny Sims.

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The International Labour Organization has already condemned the BC government for violations of the fundamental principles of free collective bargaining and freedom of association affecting tens of thousands of workers. The ILO recommended the BC Liberals should repeal their 2001 legislation that made teaching an essential service and thus limited the right to strike. It also urged government to refrain from imposing settlements through legislation and to respect the autonomy of bargaining partners.

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“In the earlier ruling, the ILO also requested that it be kept informed of further developments, so we are complying with that request,” Sims said.

Jinny Sims pointed out that Canada has been signatory to the relevant international convention since 1948. “As Canadians, we expect our legislators to honour our commitments under international law, and we are calling on the BC government to do so,” she said.

The latest complaint centres on Bill 12, which precipitated last October’s two-week strike, and “resulted in five years of imposed conditions of employment, no improvement in students’ learning conditions, and a freeze on teachers’ salaries.”

The complaint notes that the teachers attempted to follow the rules government itself imposed under the essential services legislation. They participated in hearings to determine essential service levels and followed the Labour Relations Board orders with respect to their partial strike. However, just as the LRB was set to rule on whether teachers could legally withdraw instructional services, the government once again “demonstrated an utter disregard for its own rules” and legislated away that right.

“When the BC government announced that it would deny even this most trivial interference with employer operations and moved swiftly to end bargaining, any vestige of free collective bargaining was shattered. The teachers were forced to respond outside of the legal framework,” the complaint states.

Further, it asserts: “Although the BC government may recognize collective bargaining for teachers on paper, teachers have been ‘effectively’ deprived of any lawful means of exercising their right to strike. This is contrary to international law.”

To read the full 10-page document, please go to: http://www.bctf.ca/bargain/rights/ILO/complaint2006-01-17.pdf