B.C. students planning walkout to support teachers' labour dispute

Windermere Secondary School

Students at a Vancouver high school are planning a mass walkout on Friday to protest their teachers' ongoing contract dispute.

"Whatever affects our teachers affects us because it affects our education and our learning and our school experience and our high school experience," Windermere Secondary student Navi Rai told the CBC.

8,000 students so far have signed up for the walkout. Students at Windermere plan to walk out of class and stage a gathering at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday afternoon to raise awareness of the teachers' ongoing labour dispute. 

News of the planned walkout spread after Education Minister George Abbott introduced a bill on Tuesday that would remove the teachers' right to strike and impose heavy fines if a strike continued. Just hours earlier, the Labour Relations Board had ruled that B.C.'s 40,000 teachers would be allowed to go on strike for three days during the first week, but only one day a week afterward. The legislation -- which could take up to two weeks to pass though the legislature -- would remove the teachers' right to go on strike and impose a six-month "cooling off period" and appointment of a mediator.

If the bill passes, individual teachers would be fined $475 a day for an illegal strike, while union representatives and the B.C. Teachers Federation organization would be fined $2,500 and $1.3 million a day respectively. 

In a news release, B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) president Susan Lambert characterized Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act, as “a destructive act of legislative vandalism that will violate collective bargaining rights for teachers and have a profoundly negative impact on learning conditions for students.”

Teachers are expected to vote on possible strike on Wednesday, and could be in a legal strike position next Monday. 

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