More than a thousand teachers packed the Agriplex in Cloverdale Monday afternoon, rallying against the provincial government's plans to table back-to-work legislation to end their contract stalemate.
The rally, featuring Jim Sinclair of the B.C. Federation of Labour, among other speakers, called for the government to return to the bargaining table in some fashion.
Education Minister George Abbott vowed Monday morning that a legislated contract would be imposed the next day, prompting the outrage by teachers, who have been without a contract since June.
In response, the teachers' union plans to stage a vote to seek support for escalation of job action, which, to this point, has mostly included abstaining from non-critical duties.
At the rally, Sinclair asked why the government wasn't willing to find a mediated settlement to the monthsold situation.
"The message is clear," he said. "You can mediate a settlement but you can't legislate one."
In noting that this is a critical time for the people of B.C., Sinclair praised teachers' efforts to find a solution to the impasse.
"Teachers will negotiate," he said. "We will find resolutions and we will make compromises, but we won't be bullied."
Late in the day, Abbott appeared to back away from the one-sided resolution promised hours earlier. Instead, he told media he was open to the option of having a mediator come to an agreement with the province's teachers.