Major rallies escalate teacher strike in BC

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A rainy day in Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, failed to dampen the spirits of protesting teachers and their labour union supporters on Monday as thousands turned out to make their voices heard and, incidentally, shut down the city's transportation services. The local transit union was not involved in the strike, their offices were picketed by striking Telus workers.

There are more labour events being planned. Across northern B.C. thousands of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members are off the job in solidarity with the teachers. In Prince George a rally is planned to be held in front of the office of Education Minister Shirley Bond.

"If solutions aren't found, on Wednesday of this week, another massive shutdown in a different area of this province will take place," shouted Jim Sinclair, B.C. Federation of Labour president, to a crowd gathered on the lawn of the Legislature yesterday.

Inside, the opposition NDP used Question Period to repeatedly probe the ruling Liberal party's decision to not speak with the BC Teacher's Federation (BCTF). Carol James asked Gordon Campbell what the difference was between this strike and that held by the Hospital Union (HU) in 2004 - also an illegal strike. The Premier's response was that he personally did not negotiate with the HU, and the rule of law was supreme: teachers must return to the classroom before negotiations over a bargaining process for next year's contract may begin.

The strike is back in court again this week, with Supreme Court Judge Brenda Brown saying she will rule Friday on requests the union be slapped with additional fines for refusing to call off the strike after the civil contempt of court ruling last week. The union and leaders may also face criminal charges after he government appointed Len Doust as an independent special prosecutor to assess whether criminal contempt charges may be brought.


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