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Government provoked teacher strike: negotiator

Teachers and other government union workers rally at the B.C. legislature during brief teacher strike in March 2012. - Black Press files
Teachers and other government union workers rally at the B.C. legislature during brief teacher strike in March 2012.
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – The B.C. government's negotiator admitted in court his strategy in 2012 negotiations with the B.C. Teachers' Federation was to provoke a full-scale strike.

NDP critics launched their return to the B.C. legislature Wednesday with questions about a transcript from the recent BCTF court challenge. It shows government negotiator Paul Straszak said provoking a full-scale strike was designed to move the union from its months-long ban on extra-curricular activities that started in the fall of 2011.

Asked by the BCTF lawyer if the strategy was to close schools with a full-scale walkout, which had been authorized by the Labour Relations Board to last up to a week, Straszak replied "I'll say yes."

Straszak described his briefing for John Dyble, Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister, before a cabinet meeting.

"So what we're talking about here is cabinet is going to be in an awkward situation in the context of a low scale strike, meaning it's going to want to put an end to it but the public won't necessarily see the need for the legislation because the kids are still in school," Straszak told the court.

Straszak said the teachers' work-to-rule action "was having a really significant impact on education" and the increase in pressure was part of the "political dynamic" of the long-running dispute.

In the legislature Wednesday, NDP leader Adrian Dix called on Clark to explain the strategy.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton said the Jan. 27 decision of B.C. Supreme Court is being appealed, and refused to comment further.

NDP education critic Rob Fleming said the premier and Education Minister Peter Fassbender have commented publicly on the decision in media interviews, and in letters sent to all teachers.

In her ruling, Justice Susan Griffin concluded that the B.C. government did not bargain in good faith with the BCTF. She struck down legislation restricting teacher bargaining of classroom conditions and imposed a $2 million penalty on the government.

 

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