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Government argues LRB decision makes BCTF picket illegal

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon is arguing that it's illegal for the British Columbia Teachers' Federation to picket provincial government offices, though the Labour Relations Board decision on the job action does not make that explicit.

"The B.C. Teachers Federation has mounted an illegal picket line outside several government buildings in Victoria and is encouraging unionized staff not to enter their workplaces," Falcon said in a prepared statement. "In government's view, this strike activity is illegal, and we will seek an injunction from the Labour Relations Board confirming our position today."

On Feb. 28 the LRB ruled that the teachers could with two days notice strike for three days, then for one out of every five instructional days.

That ruling also says the BCTF is not to picket schools, but it is mum on picketing other government buildings. Here's the wording: "During any job action, BCTF members will not picket, block access or egress or otherwise restrict or cause to be restricted in any way, the full and complete access to schools by members of all support unions or impede the operation of other employers who occupy the same premises as schools or school districts."

A further clause adds, "No job action by BCTF members beyond that contemplated in this interim order may be undertaken except with the express authorization of the Board."

Falcon told reporters the government plans to get the LRB to clarify that picketing government offices is illegal and is seeking the ability to assess fines.

Teachers, with the support of the B.C. Federation of Labour, are rallying at the legislature at noon today and at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 7 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

MLAs continue to debate Bill 22 in the legislature, which will impose a "cooling off" period, make the teachers' strike illegal and allow for the appointment of a mediator, though the mediator would not be able to depart from the government's net zero wage mandate.

Update, March 6, 2012 at 4:21 p.m.: The LRB has adjourned a hearing on the legality of this morning's picket lines without reaching a decision. Allison Matacheskie, the vice chair and registrar for the LRB wrote: "The British Columbia Teachers' Federation, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union and the British Columbia Federation of Labour have committed that the picketing has ceased and there is no intention for there to be any further picketing in B.C. In light of these commitments, I have decided that an expedited hearing is not required." The hearing will be rescheduled if the applicant notifies the LRB of any "alleged further similar activity."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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