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Teachers’ mandatory union membership discussed at Liberal convention

Convention delegates shoot down motion to allow teachers to opt out of BCTF

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Whistler is swimming in B.C. Liberal Party members with the party in day two of its bi-annual convention. A morning policy plenary session got the attention of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).

Party members discussed and debated issues the grassroots wants the party to adopt as policy. The issues debated at the two-hour session ranged from mandatory provincial election voting to the province’s carbon tax and allowing teachers to bow out of the BCTF. The motions that were supported by the party members were not binding for the party so they don’t represent a policy change for government but act as a guideline for the governing B.C. Liberals.

The vote on the BCTF membership issue was almost tabled for discussion at another time but the delegates at the convention voted to tackle the issue head-on at the convention instead of putting it off.

All public school teachers in B.C. must be members of the BCTF while teachers working at independent schools don’t have to maintain BCTF membership. The creators of the motion before the party delegates suggested professional autonomy is restricted for teachers under “the current union-centred regime” and that requiring public school teachers to be members of the BCTF is inconsistent with principles of professionalism.

John Puddyfoot from Vancouver-Point Grey spoke against the motion: “I agree with the intent of this motion but what it does is provides the BCTF with a rally point, which they will use.”

Puddyfoot predicted the BCTF would say the policy recommendation proves the government hates teachers.

“I don’t think this motion should pass because it will simply give ammunition to opponents,” said Puddyfoot.

A delegate from Prince George-Mackenzie said to pass the motion would send the wrong message.

“This resolution fixes nothing. As another speaker said, ‘We’re just going to pour gasoline onto a fire with this one,’” said the northern resident. Ultimately the motion failed by a landslide.

Premier Christy Clark announced on Oct. 17 that a review of the teacher bargaining process would be conducted before the teachers’ union and the province begin the next round of bargaining. The goal of the review is to determine how to best make systemic improvements to the negotiating process.

“For the sake of teachers, students, parents, administrators, school staff and school trustees, we must come together in a collaborative process to bring about labour stability,” Clark said when she announced the review.

A new round of bargaining is expected to start in the spring.

Meanwhile, the Liberal convention is scheduled to wrap up this evening following a keynote address by the premier starting at 4 p.m.

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