Teachers’ strike window closing

The B.C. government is moving closer to activating millions of dollars in fines for further teacher strike action.

Striking teachers and union supporters rally at the B.C. legislature Tuesday. A Labour Relations Board order permits one day of strike action next week as the B.C. government prepares to legislate an end to strike action.

With the B.C. Teachers’ Federation indicating it will not to exercise its option of a one-day strike next week, the B.C. government is moving closer to activating millions of dollars in fines for strike action after that point.

Education Minister George Abbott said he hopes to see the government’s legislation imposing a “cooling off period” enacted by next Thursday, March 15. More than half of B.C.’s 60 school districts begin their spring break next week, and the B.C. legislature is scheduled to begin its own one-week spring break on March 15.

“It appears that schools will be open on Monday and that’s a wonderful thing,” Abbott said Thursday. “And barring some change of mind [by the BCTF], they will also be open on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

That applies only to districts that are not on spring break the week of March 12. Those districts are Rocky Mountain, Arrow Lakes, Revelstoke, Vernon, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Quesnel, Chilliwack, Surrey, Delta, New Westminster, Burnaby, Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Okanagan-Similkameen, Bulkley Valley, Prince George, Nicola-Similkameen, Peace River North, Sooke, Saanich, Okanagan-Skaha, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Alberni, Comox Valley-Campbell River, Kamloops-Thompson, Gold Trail, Mission, Coast Mountains, Vancouver Island West, Vancouver Island North, Nechako Lakes and Nisga’a.

The week of March 19, all districts except Nicola-Similkameen, Peace River North and Comox Valley-Campbell River are on spring break.

NDP members continued Thursday to speak against Bill 22, which imposes the six-month cooling-off period and penalties for strike action. Once penalty provisions are activated by cabinet order, the BCTF would be subject to fines of $1.3 million a day, $2,500 a day for each BCTF officer who orders strike action, and $475 a day for any teacher who strikes in defiance of the legislation.

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