Who provoked a teacher strike in 2012?

BCTF members voted 90 per cent in favour of full-scale school shutdown, which was ended by cooling-off period

Grim Reaper joins hundreds of teachers and other union members in legislature protest during BCTF strike

Grim Reaper joins hundreds of teachers and other union members in legislature protest during BCTF strike

VICTORIA – I made an error in a column two weeks ago about the latest court ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

I referred to an “illegal” strike in 2012, and was quickly reminded that this teacher walkout was sanctioned by the Labour Relations Board.

After months of withholding report cards and refusing to meet with administrators, the union went to the LRB to seek permission for a full-scale strike.

They got their wish, with authorization under essential services rules for a three-day strike in the first week, and one day a week after that until the end of the school year or a settlement was reached.

For the record, the last illegal BCTF strike was in 2005, in defiance of a B.C. Supreme Court order that resulted in a $500,000 fine against the union.

That was the same year BCTF lawyers won a split B.C. Court of Appeal ruling allowing teachers to bring political propaganda into classrooms. Two out of three judges decided this was appropriate to preserve their freedom of expression.

The authorized three-day strike went ahead in March 2012. Regular readers may recall my reports of students being indoctrinated in classrooms and in some cases sent out as union pickets, and of the strong-arming of unionized government office staff here in Victoria to make them join a rally on the legislature lawn.

This was the strike that, according to the current media and political narrative, the provincial cabinet conspired to bring about. This notion is central to the Jan. 27 ruling of Justice Susan Griffin that orders the B.C. government to attempt to reconstruct the world of 2001.

Government lawyers filed an application with the B.C. Court of Appeal on Friday to suspend parts of this ruling. Imposing Griffin’s terms would cause “irreparable harm to the public interest of unprecedented magnitude,” they said in arguments backed up by a series of affidavits from superintendents who have to keep B.C.’s war-weary public schools running.

In Surrey, returning to 2002 conditions would add $40 million to the district payroll in year one. That’s one of 60 school districts.

The government’s submission includes affidavits from superintendents around the province on its likely impact. Here’s a partial list:

Cancellation of specialty programs for vulnerable youth, construction of portables to meet arbitrary class size restrictions, transfer of some students to other schools, closure of daycare and Strong Start preschool programs to free up space reallocated over the years, layoff of non-teaching staff, and cancellation of school participation in the international student program.

Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender have begun to push back against the conspiracy theory that has taken hold, pointing out that when the BCTF finally did get permission to strike, the cabinet of the day acted to prevent it.

Here’s a recap. In late February 2012, nearly 28,000 teachers (90 per cent) voted to go to the full strike allowed by the LRB. The government tabled legislation to impose a cooling-off period with provision for steep fines on the union for any further strike action, and appointed a mediator. This kept schools open, and eventually yielded a two-year deal.

In April 2012, the union voted to withdraw all volunteer work by teachers. By this time they had been ordered by the LRB to prepare second-term report cards, in part so students would know if they could apply for post-secondary studies.

Once again this mess is before the court of appeal. Perhaps there will be better recognition of the real world this time around.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos)
A micro brewery is being eyed for Jordan River. However, the site where the brewery is proposed still needs to go through the rezoning process. (Black Press Media file)
Micro brewery proposed for Jordan River

Jordan River Brewing Company envisions to build wholesale, sit-in brewery along Highway 14

Traffic waits at the intersection of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue. A study found failing levels of service at the intersection of Highway 17 and Sidney’s Beacon Avenue for multiple movements during morning peak traffic and for all left-moving traffic during afternoon peak traffic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Province supports potential interim improvements to Sidney intersection

Province says interchange is the long-term plan for intersection of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17

Oak Bay local Lachlan Kratz (red, middle) has signed with pro rugby team NOLO Gold in Louisiana. (Contributed photo)
Oak Bay local signs with pro rugby team

Lachlan Kratz at 21 is now NOLO Gold’s youngest member

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read