Teachers rally in Comox Valley, Victoria as strike continues

COMOX VALLEY TEACHERS were joined by local Canadian Union of Public Employees members Tuesday for a rally in front of the School Board Office to show opposition to Bill 22.  Here, they begin to mass for the demonstration. - Erin Haluschak
COMOX VALLEY TEACHERS were joined by local Canadian Union of Public Employees members Tuesday for a rally in front of the School Board Office to show opposition to Bill 22. Here, they begin to mass for the demonstration.
— image credit: Erin Haluschak

Comox Valley schools have been closed to kids since Monday, and future teacher walkouts are a possibility, according to Comox Valley District Teachers' Association president Steve Stanley.
Stanley said he expects teachers will be back to work on Thursday but they will still be in Phase One of job action, as they have been since September.
While Stanley said Tuesday that the BC Teachers' Federation has not discussed what will happen next week in regards to a strike, there's a chance teachers will withdraw from all duties again.
"It's possible," said Stanley. "The Labour Relations Board said that we can be out one day next week, so it's possible — if Bill 22 hasn't passed at that time."
The Labour Relations Board ruling last week allows teachers to withdraw all duties one day per week following this three-day strike.
However, if passed, Bill 22 includes "stiff financial consequences" for "illegal strike action" during mediation, according to a news release from the Ministry of Education.
According to the BCTF, these penalties include $475 per day for individual teachers, $2,500 per day for union officers, and a minimum of $1.3 million per day for the BCTF.
Debate on the Education Improvement Act began on Thursday, and NDP House Leader John Horgan has since told media that the 34 NDP opposition members will each use their half hour of allotted time to debate it, which adds up to about 17 hours just from them.
When Education Minister George Abbott tabled the legislation last week, he said he did not want to rush the legislation through.
Comox Valley Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members stood beside teachers in protest of Bill 22 at noon on Tuesday outside the school board offices in Courtenay.
According to Ian McLean, CUPE national representative in the Comox Valley, CUPE is very supportive of teachers, and called the tabled legislation "regressive."
"CUPE members — we work with the teachers every day — but in British Columbia, we have 80,000 CUPE members that, quite candidly, feel very strongly, and that's why we're standing up to oppose Bill 22," said McLean, adding that there's an 'if it can happen to them, it can happen to us' attitude amongst members.
"Absolutely — that is really the long and the short of it — that every CUPE member in this province has, or could have, the ability to be legislated back to work."
School District 71 and North Island College support staff, and staff from the Comox Valley Regional District, Town of Comox, City of Courtenay and Village of Cumberland were invited to attend the protest. These members were expected to march to Comox Valley MLA and past teacher Don McRae's office alongside teachers, after the Record's deadline.
However, McLean mentioned it may have been difficult for some members to come out because they have regular work hours.
Comox Valley teachers and CUPE some members also took buses down to the legislature in Victoria for a large demonstration Tuesday.

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