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Kelowna: Teachers coming back to school
Newly re-elected BCTF leader Susan Lambert released what teachers are willing to say about their plan to battle Bill 22 in a press conference in Vancouver on Wednesday, March 21.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation is going back to court to challenge the legislation that has put an end to its latest strike action, but teachers will be back on the job once spring break is over. Wednesday afternoon newly re-elected BCTF president Susan Lambert announced teachers will take part in a provincewide vote on April 17 and 18 to decide if they will withhold voluntary extracurricular duties as a means of protesting Bill 22. A second member vote will have to be held should they decide to stage a strike in defiance of the Bill, which triggers fines of $1.3 million a day for the union and $475 a day for individual teachers. The decision on work outside of regular hours will be made on an individual local basis, however the Central Okanagan Teachers' Association could not be reached on deadline for comment on how that vote might flush out locally. COTA president Alice Rees said she would be out of the country for a couple of days taking time for herself. Rees was among those who wanted to see a change in leadership when the teachers re-elected Susan Lambert earlier this week. "I believe the coming down of of Bill 22 raised an element of reluctance to change the leadership at this time," she told radio station AM 1150 Tuesday after learning it would be status quo. The interview made clear she finds Lambert's approach less than conciliatory and would have preferred to see someone more dedicated to finding solutions to the problems at hand. The bulk of the delegates present for the BC Teachers' Federation annual general meeting did not agree. Lambert defeated her challenger, Rick Guenther, nearly two to one. At the press conference she held Wednesday to unveil the teachers' plan of attack on Bill 22 Lambert appeared to rule out any further work-to-rule action as students return from spring break, saying report cards will be completed to allow those applying for scholarships and post-secondary education to do so. Bill 22 goes beyond forcing an end to the strike that has had teachers refusing to complete report cards or meet with administrators since last September. It reimposes restrictions on class size and special needs support that a B.C. Supreme Court decision last year ruled were done without adequate consultation. Lambert said that will be a focus of new legal action. "Bill 22 addresses the judgment by repealing it in one paragraph and reinstating it in the next," she said. "That's more than arrogant." Education Minister George Abbott returns next week from a 10-day visit to China promoting educational exchange. He said he will appoint a mediator when he returns to seek agreement within the terms of the government's two-year wage freeze. The BCTF did not release the "action plan" worked out during delegate meetings in Vancouver this week, but did indicate that it rejects a provision of Bill 22 that could pay teachers extra if they teach classes of more than 30 students. Lambert termed the extra pay offer "cash for kids" and called it "totally unethical."