Monday, October 17, 2005

The Big Nasty Strike

For any of you who are unaware out there, the BC teachers have been on strike now for over a week. Basically we are wanting to negotiate a contract in which a variety of issues are addressed: namely class sizes, support for ESL and special needs students, increased funding for resources and books, and a salary increase. The government and the BCTF (BC Teachers' Federation) have been arguing about this for 18 months. Finally after the government addressed the issue with a "No, no and no" response, the BCTF arranged a strike and our premier (Gordon Campbell, unfortunately) decided to impose a law the night before the arranged strike that re-imposed an old contract from 2 years ago stating that teachers are an "Essential Service" and are therefore not legally allowed to strike. Well, we had an emergency vote and of those of us who voted, 90.5% of us voted in favour of holding an "illegal" wildcat strike.
Today there was a HUGE rally in Victoria. We have had tremendous support from parents, students, and other unions. It was estimated that there were up to 11,000 people marching from Centennial Square to the parliament buildings. Many other unions who supported us gave the government a taste of what a general strike would do to to the province... the city transit stopped for most of the day, even PCL coaches were off, Safeway and Save-On-Foods were closed, the libraries were closed, and many of the services at UVic and Camosun were down because the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) went on strike in support of us. We were marching with nurses, construction workers, children and engineers. It was amazing. Here are a few pics...This is me on my first day of striking.This is a view overlooking Centennial Square from a parkade-- it catches about a quarter of the people I could see from there.This shot is terrible because the weather sucked and I don't have a great zoom lens... but look beyond the guy walking there, and you'll see a stream of people marching down Government Street. This went on for at *least* another 20 minutes after I'd arrived, and had probably been going on for 20 minutes before I got there. The turnout was amazing.Around this there were 2 people walking with giant rat-heads on, wearing signs that said that the children of BC are Gordon Campbell's "lab rats". Will be interesting to see what happens next...

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