Education Minister George Abbott released a statement on March 1 regarding the decision by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation to hold a three-day strike.
“We are truly disappointed by the union’s decision to hold a three-day strike beginning next week. A strike of this nature will significantly disrupt student learning and creates tremendous concern for parents and families.
“The union is in a legal strike position. Under the order from the Labour Relations Board, they are able to fully withdraw for three days, but the order is clear that schools are not to be picketed.
“Parents are encouraged to find child-care arrangements for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. However, for parents unable to secure alternate arrangements, all public schools will be open and students will be cared for and supervised.
“Schools will be staffed by non-unionized school and district personnel. Given the LRB order preventing schools from being picketed, we also expect all unionized school support staff, such as education assistants, to be present as well. While there will be no instructional time, all staff will ensure students are supervised in a safe environment.
“Further, school-based child-care services, such as pre-school and after-school care, are not affected by the strike.
“Bill 22 is an important and complex piece of legislation that demands careful debate and full understanding by all members of the legislature.
“Bill 22 sets a cooling-off period and suspends the teachers’ union strike action while calling on the assistance of a mediator. It also implements the $165-million Learning Improvement Fund and other measures that will play a fundamental role in the future of education in our province.
“I understand that emotions are running high, and we do not want to inflame the situation by acting precipitously and rushing through the legislation.
“We have been working very hard and have put numerous opportunities in front of the union to try to work through the difficult issues that confront us during a time of collective bargaining.
“It’s unfortunate that rhetoric and name-calling has overtaken a thoughtful and constructive approach to resolving the impasse through mediation. When mediation begins in the near future, I hope the discussion will unfold in a respectful way.”