BCTF escalating to full-scale strike on June 17
Short of a remarkable turnaround in negotiations between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government, students across the province will be getting a longer summer vacation.
The BCTF reported yesterday that 86% of its members – province-wide – voted to escalate the current job action on Tuesday, June 17 to a full withdrawal of services.
“This week’s vote made it clear that B.C. teachers care deeply about the state of public education and their ability to meet the needs of all their students. As well, it showed how firmly teachers are committed to doing what’s necessary to reach a fair deal,” stated BCTF President Jim Iker.
“After 12 years of deep cuts, 3,500 teaching positions lost, and 200 schools closed, we are urging this government to reinvest in public education. Teachers are doing their utmost in an underfunded and under-resourced system, but students are not getting the support or one-on-one time they need. Our kids deserve so much more,” he said, adding a hint of optimism. “There are still several days left, during which both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike, and end the government’s lockout. We’re ready to move, but my message to Christy Clark is, come to the table with new funding, an open mind, and the flexibility needed to reach a fair settlement that will support teachers and students.”
Iker explained in a press release that the BCTF has provided the employer with notice that the full withdrawal of services will commence on Tuesday, June 17.
In addition, the BCTF has provided notice that Stage 2 job action will be extended to Monday, June 16, with all teachers participating in study sessions province-wide. Teachers will gather together off school property. Schools will not be picketed, but teachers will not be on site.
For the balance of this week, rotating strikes will continue according to the schedule announced earlier. Teachers remain locked out by their employer during recess, lunch, and 45 minutes before and after school, preventing them from doing their regular work during lockout hours. Schools are closed in School District No. 5 today (Cranbrook and Elk Valley), while School District No. 6 (Kimberley and Columbia Valley) teachers were on strike yesterday, June 11.
B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the strike notice did not come as a surprise.
“While this is disappointing news for students and parents, the strike notice was not unexpected,” he said. “That’s why the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) applied last week to designate provincial exams and report cards for senior grads as an essential service. We’re pleased to learn that last night the Labour Relations Board agreed that provincial exams are an essential service.”
While students are losing class time as they 2013/2014 school year rolls to a close, high school exams will be taken, Fassbender assured.
“Students in Grades 10 to 12 will be able to write their exams as scheduled and Grade 12 students will receive their final marks in a timely manner,” he said, adding, “Our main focus though, is to get to an agreement by June 30, 2014, and put this disruption behind us. The BCTF has said they want to avoid the strike and they are ready to bargain through the weekend. BCPSEA will be there.
“It took support staff unions five days of hard bargaining to get to an agreement. We can achieve the same thing with teachers if the BCTF comes to the table with realistic expectations and a willingness to find solutions,” he said.
“Up to now, the BCTF’s total compensation demands have been four times more than other recent settlements. The BCTF has indicated that they will submit a new wage proposals and BCPSEA looks forward to receiving those,” Fassbender continued.
“Teachers deserve a raise but it must be in line with recent agreements covering nearly 150,000 public sector workers – including 34,000 school support workers. BCPSEA has a fair wage offer on the table that includes a $1,200 signing bonus if we get to an agreement by June 30, 2014,” he noted, concluding, “I know everyone involved wants to head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability and focussed on student outcomes.”
A few things need to be achieved to avert a full strike, Iker stressed.
“To get a fair deal and avert a full-scale strike, B.C. teachers are looking for improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers to increase one-on-one time for students,” he said. “In addition to improvements to student learning conditions, a fair deal must also include a fair wage increase for teachers.”
BCTF members on the picket line in front of Mount Baker Secondary School (pictured above) this afternoon (June 12) echoed Iker, noting class sizes along with proper and effective staffing levels are as important as a fair wage increase.