Terrace Teachers Honoured For Pivotal Day in BC Labour History

A special bronze plaque was presented in Terrace yesterday, commemorating a pivotal day in BC Labour history.

The BC Labour Heritage Centre was remembering the 1981 Terrace Teachers strike -- which helped pave the way for full bargaining rights for teachers across the province.

At the time, the Terrace teachers were an association, but not a union with the right to strike.

Former BC Teachers Federation President Ken Novakowski, who currently chairs the Heritage Centre, said what the Terrace teachers did back then was truly groundbreaking.  

"Teachers, before they had the right to strike and before they had the right to bargain all terms and conditions of employment, Terrace teachers actually took action, including a strike, because they felt strongly about some issues that were happening in the district, and that was a very significant step for BC Teachers overall and it moved them to full collective bargaining rights, and that's why it's being provincially recognized," he said.

What became a six-day wildcat walkout was sparked by what the teachers association felt was the unfair demotion and transfer of two popular school principals -- Tom Hamakawa and Roy Greening. 

The Association's president at the time, Wayne Wyatt, says the situation evolved naturally.

"The action here in Terrace wasn't part of a master plan -- like most things in life, things just happen and you react, and 30 years later, some would say that it was for the good, some might say it was not so good, but here we are," he said.

Current TDTU President Mike Wen says the goal then, as now, was to provide the conditions teachers need in order to offer their students the best education environment possible.

Yesterday's ceremony took place at the Northern Motor Inn -- but the plaque will eventually be put on public display near the Terrace Sportsplex.