BC school teachers have voted to go on strike, after several months of working to rule. The main issue appears to be wages, with the province holding firm at a net zero settlement while the teachers are asking for 15%.
An interesting aspect of this strike is the teachers’ apparent plans to start with a three-day strike and then move to rolling strikes (one day per week). The BC Labour Relations Board has indicated that teachers must give two days of notice of each subsequent day of strike.
This tactic has a couple of interesting dimensions.
First, it is actually more inconvenient and disruptive than a continuing strike. Even with notice, parents and school boards will have difficulty coping with the on-again-off-again strike. Replacement workers and day programs won’t want to operate one (varying) day per week.
Second, by only being out one day per week, it is much harder for the government to justify back-to-work legislation under the Charter. The argument that children are being deprived of an education becomes almost impossible to make in these circumstances.
Third, the teachers can amp up the pressure by extending strikes to two days or full weeks any time they want. Strikes are often an all-or-nothing proposition for unions. This approach gives teachers an interesting degree of discretion. The employer could lock out the teachers to take this away, but then the employer look like the bad guy.
-- Bob Barnetson