British Columbia Teachers' Federation

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BCTF
Full name British Columbia Teachers' Federation
Founded 1917
Affiliation BCFED/CLC
Key people Jim Iker, President
Office location Vancouver, Canada
Country Canada
Website www.bctf.ca

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) is the labour union that represents all public school teachers in the province of British Columbia, Canada.

Governance structure[edit]

The BCTF is made up of 41,000 teachers from across the province of British Columbia.

Members

Members of the BCTF determine the decisions and directions of the BCTF in two ways:

  • Members, through locals, elect delegates to the BCTF Annual General Meeting (AGM). The AGM makes key decisions for the organization and elects the Executive Committee.
  • Members, through locals, elect local representatives, who make up the Representative Assembly (RA). The RA has key decision-making responsibilities.

Locals

Locals are responsible for acting on behalf of members regarding local matters. Members in locals elect their local president and executive, who guide the affairs of the local.

Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting is a meeting of delegates and local representatives elected by members through locals and the eleven members of the Executive Committee. There are approximately 670 voting delegates at an Annual General Meeting. The delegates to the AGM elect the Executive Committee, determine the fee, approve any changes to bylaws, establish priorities for the next year, and make the significant policy decisions of the federation.

Constitution and bylaws

The constitution and bylaws establish the rules by which the organization is run. The bylaws establish the division of responsibilities among the major decision-making bodies and spell out what each level of decision making is authorized to do. The BCTF's bylaws must be followed by all bodies of the organization, including the AGM. Only the AGM can amend the bylaws, and only with a 75% majority of delegates voting in favour.

Representative Assembly

The Representative Assembly meets three times a year and has the responsibilities of approving a budget and electing the Judicial Council and Committee of Ombudspersons. The RA also makes policy and procedural decisions for the federation.

Executive Committee[1]

The Executive Committee (EC) of the BCTF is elected by the AGM and consists of eleven members. Three of these serve in a full-time capacity: the President, the First Vice-President, and the Second Vice-President. The EC has overall responsibility for the running of the federation. It meets monthly, with additional meetings as necessary. The EC is the employer of BCTF staff and determines what work will be done in any given year. It also has responsibility for the creation and appointment of any advisory committees or task forces.

President

The President of the federation has responsibility for overall supervision of the affairs of the organization between meetings of the Executive Committee.

History[edit]

In 1916 the Vancouver Teachers' Association called a special meeting of Teachers' Institutes to discuss the creation of a provincial federation. Delegates from Vancouver, Victoria, Point Grey, South Vancouver, and North Vancouver met at Dawson School on October 28, 1916. A resolution was unanimously passed in favour of a provincial organization and a draft constitution to be submitted to a later general meeting.

The first AGM was held in Vancouver at King Edward High School on January 4, 1917. J. G. Lister was elected as the first president. The original objectives adopted at this meeting guide the organization to this day: to foster and promote the cause of education, to raise the status of the teaching profession in BC, and to promote the welfare of the teachers of BC.

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation was incorporated under the Friendly Societies Act of British Columbia on July 12, 1919, with Harry Charlesworth as president. In 1920, Charlesworth became the first General Secretary of the federation and its first paid employee. He served in this capacity until his death in 1944. Charlesworth also helped to found the Canadian Teachers' Federation in 1920 and served as its first president.

In 1919, the BCTF launched the Educator, which became the Teacher two years later. It remains the primary publication of the BCTF.[2]

Prompting by the BCTF led to the first major examination of education in the province, the Putnam-Weir report of 1925. The report, titled Survey of the School System, notably led to the creation of junior high schools in British Columbia.

In 1929, BCTF lobbying resulted in the Teachers' Pension Act, which established years of service and contribution level as the bases for pensions.

The Sick Benefit Fund was established in 1939 to assist teachers who were ill and had run out of sick leave. This program is now known as the Salary Indemnity Plan.[3]

The BCTF Code of Ethics was adopted in 1943.[4]

Statutory compulsory membership was granted to the BCTF by the provincial government in 1947.

In 1954, Hilda Cryderman was elected as the first female president of the BCTF.

The mid-1950s saw the end of discrimination in salary scales against female teachers and the elimination of differential pay for teachers in elementary, junior secondary, and senior secondary schools. Subsequently, only qualifications and years of teaching experience would determine a teacher's salary.

Provincial Specialist Associations (PSAs) were created in 1957. These associations are intended to give members a venue to exchange ideas on research, teaching strategies, curriculum development, and other shared interests.[5]

In 1970, the BCTF Task Force on the Status of Women resulted in the creation of the Status of Women action group in 1973.[6]

The first province-wide strike occurred on March 19, 1971, when teachers protested the government's refusal to improve the pensions of retirees.

In 1971 the government eliminated compulsory BCTF membership for teachers. The BCTF engineered a voluntary sign-up of all but 69 of the 22,000 teachers in the province. Compulsory membership was reinstated by legislation in 1973.

In November 1983, teachers participated in a three-day withdrawal of service in concert with other unions as part of the Operation Solidarity movement.

In 1987 the government again ended compulsory membership as part of a larger package of legislation. Some 99% of teachers voluntarily signed up with the BCTF in a major certification sign-up campaign. This legislation also created the British Columbia College of Teachers and removed principals and vice-principals from the teacher bargaining unit.

The 1994 Public Sector Labour Relations Act established a provincial bargaining structure in which the BCTF became the bargaining agent for teachers and the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) became the bargaining agency for trustees. Only one contract has been negotiated under this structure; all others have required government intervention.

In 2001, the BC Liberal government declared teachers an essential service, requiring them to seek approval from the BC Labour Relations Board before commencing strike action. In the fall of 2005, the BCTF engaged in a two-week strike in response to the government's contract imposition. This strike was deemed illegal by the British Columbia courts.

2005 contract dispute[edit]

Since 1992, contract negotiations for BC public school teachers have been on a province-wide basis, negotiating a single contract with the British Columbia Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA). Since that time, each contract has been legislated into law by the government of the day because the teachers and the employers have failed to reach an agreement.

Negotiations began between the teachers and the BCPSEA after the contract expired in June 2004. Relations between the BCTF and the BC Liberal government were acrimonious, with the government's policy of wage freezes and the BCTF's negative advertising campaign during the May 2001 election. After winning, the BC Liberals made good on an election promise to make public education an essential service, limiting the level of job action that the BCTF could take during a collective bargaining dispute.

Without a contract at the beginning of the new school year, negotiations soured and an agreement was unlikely. To pressure the BCPSEA and the government to capitulate on wage and classroom size demands, on September 27, over 88% of 31,740 teachers voted to begin job action by withdrawing supervisory and administrative duties. Without successful contract negotiation, more severe action would begin on October 11.[7]

With negotiations derailed and a strike imminent, the government introduced legislation on October 5 to extend the previous contract through the end of the school year—June 2006—at which time the across-the-board wage freeze would be revisited. After a filibuster by the official opposition BC NDP, Bill 12[8] passed on October 7. Furthermore, the BCPSEA successfully applied to the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) to deem any strike action illegal.

The BCTF held an emergency vote to carry out the strike despite the BCLRB ruling, with 90.5%[9] of the participating members voting in favour of proceeding with protest action.

The BCTF began an illegal strike on October 7, 2005. It maintained that breaking the law for a just cause (having its collective bargaining rights limited and a contract imposed) was acceptable. Critics of the BCTF claimed that the illegal job action set a bad example for the children they teach. The job action was illegal because teaching in British Columbia was considered an essential service and teachers were not allowed to strike. The BCTF, however, maintained that under the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the non-binding decisions of the United Nations International Labour Organization, education is not an essential service and it had the right to political protest.[10]

Following the strike action, the BCPSEA filed a complaint in the BC Supreme Court on October 6 to find the BCTF in contempt of court, and on October 9 Madame Justice Brenda Brown declared the BCTF in contempt, ordering teachers to return to work October 11.

On October 12, a small number of defiant teachers began crossing picket lines and returned to work.[11]

As a result of the continuing defiance of her court order, Madame Justice Brenda Brown on October 13 ordered the BCTF to cease paying strike pay to its members or use its funds to prolong the strike.[12][13] Regardless, the BCTF remained on the picket line.

On October 17, the BC Federation of Labour spearheaded a major labour shutdown of the province's capital, Victoria. Termed a "Day of Protest" rather than a general strike, the city saw the vast majority of its public services crippled by labour action. The event culminated in a massive protest at the Legislature, where it was estimated that up to 20,000 people rallied.

On the same day, Premier Gordon Campbell made his first public comments during the strike. He called on the BCTF to obey the law and said that the union has "made a complete mockery of the British Columbia Supreme Court." He reiterated his government's position that it would not negotiate with the BCTF while the BCTF was breaking the law.

Experienced mediator Vince Ready was brought in and presented proposals to end the strike. Both the government and the BCTF accepted his recommendations, and on October 24, the teachers went back to work.[14]

2006 contract negotiations[edit]

On June 9, 2006, the union announced that if a contract was not reached before the start of the school year, it was prepared to commence labour disruption (strike) activities, including a possible full withdrawal of service. Of the 30,202 members who voted, 85.2% were in favour of a strike.[15]

Talks between the union and the government proceeded without much progress. The main sticking point was compensation, with the government offering a 10% increase (up from 8%) over four years and the union asking for a 19% increase (down from 24%) over three years.[16][17]

Late in the day on June 30, 2006, the two sides reached a tentative agreement for a 16% increase in wages and benefits over a five-year contract. Because the agreement was reached before the month-end deadline, teachers were eligible for a signing bonus of approximately $4,000.[18]

2011 contract negotiations[edit]

The next round of negotiations began in 2011, when the previous contract expired. The provincial government demanded the same net zero outcome accepted by all other public sector unions. Additionally, the government sought more control over professional development, reduced seniority provisions, and increased teacher evaluation and accountability.

The BCTF demanded a 15% wage increase over three years (costed at $560 million by the BCTF and $2 billion by the provincial government), increased paid prep time, improved benefits, additional leave, and an additional six discretionary leave days per year to care for a sick friend or relative (a request that was later dropped).

At the time, teachers in BC made, on average, between $48,000 and $74,000 a year. This income increases to $83,000 for teachers with higher-level qualifications.[19]

Affiliation history[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]