Teachers across British Columbia have voted 77% to return to their classrooms tomorrow morning, confident in the knowledge that they have reasserted their rights and raised quality public education to the top of the political agenda.
BCTF President Jinny Sims and her Executive Committee voted to recommend acceptance of the settlement package crafted by Vince Ready. Clearly teachers shared their leaders’ view that now is the time to get back to work and begin a new stage in their ongoing advocacy for public education.
Of the 30,427 votes cast, 23,632 were yes and 6,795 were no.
“Teachers have voted by a large majority to end our campaign of civil disobedience and to return to work tomorrow,” Sims said. “We will do so with our heads held high, and our hearts touched by the many gestures of kindness and solidarity we have experienced in the past two weeks.”
B.C.’s 38,000 teachers walked out in protest of Bill 12 on October 7, and maintained picket lines at all public schools throughout the province for the next ten school days. About 25,000 CUPE members who work in the school system demonstrated solid support, along with other co-workers from the IUOE and BCGEU.
In addition, thousands of parents, students, and community members joined their teachers on the picket lines and at public rallies, often bringing cookies and coffee along with their good wishes. To the surprise of many political commentators, public support for the teachers remained strong even after the strike was declared illegal.
“We are so grateful for the support from the parents and students, as well as the outstanding solidarity of school support workers and teachers across Canada and even abroad,” said Sims.
“Thank you to everyone who was with us in this struggle to improve classroom conditions and reclaim workers’ rights. Together we have all learned the important lesson that citizens who take a collective stand can make positive change in our democracy,” Sims said.
Sims assured parents that teachers will be working hard to help students make up for lost time, and she is confident they won’t have problems catching up.
However, she said, the work of rebuilding working relationships between teachers and the provincial government will be a more difficult job.
“This government has enacted six pieces of legislation targeting teachers’ rights and profession,” Sims noted. “These actions have undermined our trust in this government.”
Sims said teachers will be watching and holding this government accountable for their promises to amend the School Act to include firm class-size limits for students in Grades 4 through 12, and to address the serious issues of class composition and support for students with special needs.
Tomorrow, Sims and three other BCTF representatives will attend the first meeting of the Learning Roundtable in Victoria.
“We will be bringing a clear message from the thousands of people with whom we have walked and talked these past two weeks,” Sims said. “British Columbians support teachers’ speaking out for students, they care deeply about the learning conditions in their children’s classrooms, and they want the government to reinvest in a strong and stable public school system.”