POLITICS
02/16/2012 05:10 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Teachers' association presidents to meet with MLAs as job action continues

VANCOUVER - Presidents of teachers' associations across B.C. are aiming to meet with their MLAs in Victoria next week amid the looming possibility of a legislated end to the teachers' contract dispute.

Gail Chaddock-Costello, who heads the Langley Teachers' Association, said Thursday about 66 people who head various associations are trying to book meetings with their political representatives.

She said teachers will be speaking with MLAs between Monday and Thursday about issues involving their job action, which began last September.

A fact finder appointed last week to look into negotiations between the teachers' union and the government's bargaining agent will issue a report on the issue next Thursday.

But Education Minister George Abbott has said the two sides are so far apart that he hasn't ruled out legislation to put an end to the dispute.

"We're hoping that with all of these presidents from each of these locals from across the province to speak to their MLAs that we will have some opportunity to have some input and some influence," Chaddock-Costello said.

She said teachers, along with their union, will also be in Victoria to hear whether the government has any new money for education in the provincial budget being unveiled next Tuesday.

As part of their limited strike action, teachers have not written report cards or provided before- and after-school supervision.

They have also not attended meetings with principals, who, along with vice-principals and other administrators, have taken on more responsibilities since the job action began.

"The interesting part about that is that it's been a bit of an awakening for principals who have realized how much work teachers do outside teaching," Chaddock-Costello said.

Teachers want a 15 per cent wage hike over three years, but Abbott has said that won't happen during the government's net-zero wage policy for public sector employees.

In 2001, teachers went on a two-week illegal strike to back their contract demands but were legislated back to work.

Three weeks ago, teachers at some schools staged a Black Friday protest to mark the 10-year anniversary of the legislation that stripped teachers' rights to bargain class size, class composition and specialist-teacher ratios.

"We wanted to get the message out there that teachers are united in their desire for a negotiated collective agreement," Chaddock-Costello said.