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BC teachers escalating job action to include rotating walk-outs

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The union representing public school teachers has announced it is moving to Phase 2 of job action.

This means if you have a child in one of BC’s public schools, you’ll have to figure out a child care plan for one day next week. There will be walkouts in districts around the province, barring a last-minute deal between teachers and the government.

Every district in the province will be affected for one day, Monday to Thursday next week. In Vancouver’s case, that’s Monday. Extra curricular activities, such as field trips, will also be cancelled.

The BC Teachers’ Federation‘s announcement comes just days after the province made its latest contract proposal, offering a $1,200 signing bonus and a six-year contract in place of the 10-year deal that was a plank in the Liberal election campaign. The government proposal also threatens a five per cent wage cut if a contract isn’t reached by the end of the school year.

At this morning’s news conference, BCTF President Jim Iker was clearly unhappy with the province’s latest moves.

“Teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,” he says. “But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts, and attempts to divide teachers, parents, and students.”

Iker says they’re moving to Phase 2 because the provincial government has made unfair wage demands and is unwilling to offer any improvements to class size or composition.

“We’ve tabled 10.75 per cent over four years, plus variations of cost of living,” he says, in regards to the gap between the two sides when it comes to a salary increase for teachers. “The employer has tabled 6.5 per cent over six years.”

“Depending on the progress, we will continue rotating strikes, if necessary. But I’m hoping that government will come to the table. Government says that they want a deal. So, let’s make it happen,” says Iker.

At a news conference today, Education Minister Peter Fassbender calls the strike action extremely disappointing. He says it’s out-of-line that teachers are expecting more than any other union and have refused to move on their stance, when government has several times.

He says the province has given way quite a bit and that the BCTF has not. “We are looking to continue to negotiate, to find a negotiated settlement, but this makes that job that much more difficult.”

Fassbender says the province is just as frustrated as parents that students will miss one day of school next week. He says this is the result of teachers, not government.

He also says class size and composition, which has been something the BCTF continues to say has not been brought forward on the negotiating table, has actually been discussed. “To suggest that class size and composition hasn’t been at the bargaining table is totally incorrect. It’s always been there, it’s still there.”

A legal expert says parents should remember education is an essential service in our province. But Ken Thornicroft says teacher job action has been approved by the Labour Relations Board.

“That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be withdrawal of classroom services from time to time, but the board is given the legal responsibility to ensure that students’ education is not unduly harmed by any strike activity that might take place.”

He says while Phase One may have seemed like it wasn’t much, it was very much considered a strike, and any further escalation would still need to be approved by the LRB.

Planned public school closures (by district school number)
*Asterisk indicates a school district in the Lower Mainland

Monday, May 26:
#5 – Southeast Kootenay
#6 – Rocky Mountain
#28 – Quesnel
#39 – Vancouver*
#40 – New Westminster*
#48 – Sea to Sky
#49 – Central Coast
#59 – Pace River South
#62 – Sooke
#67 – Okanagan Skaha
#72 – Campbell River
#74 – Gold Trail
#75 – Mission*
#78 – Fraser-Cascade
#85 – Vancouver Island North
#87 – Stikine

Tuesday, May 27
#10 – Arrow Lakes
#19 – Revelstoke
#20 – Kootenay-Columbia
#23 – Central Okanagan
#27 – Cariboo-Chilcotin
#35 – Langley*
#38 – Richmond*
#42 – Maple Ridge*
#52 – Prince Rupert
#54 – Bulkley Valley
#63 – Saanich
#68 – Nanaimo
#70 – Alberni
#81 – Fort Nelson
#83 – North Okanagan-Shuswap

Wednesday, May 28
#8 – Kootenay Lake
#34 – Abbotsford*
#37 – Delta*
#43 – Coquitlam*
#47 – Powell River
#50 – Haida Gwaii
#51 – Boundary
#53 – Okanagan Similkameen
#60 – Peace River North
#61 – Greater Victoria
#69 – Qualicum
#73 – Kamloops Thompson
#84 – Vancouver Island West
#91 – Nechako Lakes
#92 – Nisga’a

Thursday, May 29
#22 – Vernon
#33 – Chilliwack*
#36 – Surrey*
#41 – Burnaby*
#44 – North Vancouver*
#45 – West Vancouver*
#46 – Sunshine Coast
#57 – Prince George
#58 – Nicola Similkameen
#64 – Gulf Islands
#71 – Comox
#79 – Cowichan Valley