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Posted: June 2, 2014

Rotating strikes continue this week

The BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) is continuing with rotating strikes around the province this week, including both school districts in the East Kootenay.

On Thursday, June 5 School District No. 5 (SD5 – Southeast Kootenay) and on Friday, June 6, School District No. 6 (SD6 – Rocky Mountain) will be back on the picket lines, meaning schools will be closed.

“B.C. teachers are committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement at the bargaining table. That agreement, however, needs to include adequate funding to make improvements to important learning conditions, which are teachers’ working conditions. It’s time for Premier Christy Clark to free up the resources that will bring the two sides closer together and ensure students start the next school year with smaller classes, more support for children with special needs, and extra one-on-one time,” stated BCTF President Jim Iker.

“We also expect the government to be flexible on their wage demands and show some good faith and willingness to move. Teachers know that bargaining is about compromise, but we cannot be the only ones expected to move. Collective bargaining is about compromise and moving forwards, not backwards.”

Iker thanked parents for their ongoing understanding and support. “The reaction on the picket lines has been fantastic,” Iker said, adding, “Parents know that we are working to improve the education system for their children. I also want to thank B.C.’s teachers who have remained so professional and committed to their students despite Christy Clark’s ill conceived, confusing, and chaotic lockout that was drummed up to justify her attack on our wages. B.C. teachers have showed incredible strength and resolve to achieve a fair deal for ourselves and better support for our students.”

Education Minister Peter Fassbender stated last week, during the first day of rotating strikes, including both SD5 and SD6,”It is unfortunate that the BCTF leadership is shutting down schools with their rotating strikes – it is always students and parents who bear the greatest brunt when the BCTF orders teachers to walk out.

“This is the BCTF’s next stage in a strike they started a month ago. Since April 23, teachers have been directed by the BCTF leadership to withdraw their full duties and to limit their time at the work site to no more than 60 minutes before and after their normal class time,” he said.

“Students, parents, teachers, and government want this strike resolved. That is why on May 16, the government and BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) tabled some significant incentives, such as a $1,200 signing bonus and moving to a six year term, to help reach an agreement by the end of June,” Fassbender continued.

“When BCPSEA tabled those incentives, they asked the BCTF if they were willing to put on hold their stage one strike. The BCTF refused. When it was made clear that if the union continued with its partial withdrawal of services, BCPSEA would need to respond with a corresponding reduction in teachers’ pay.

“Not only did the union refuse to stand down from its stage one strike, a few days later they dismissed the significant moves that BCPSEA made at the table, and informed students and parents that they would shut down schools through rotating strikes.”

Fassbender said the BCPSEA and government are willing to bargain at any time.

“We want to see a negotiated settlement and BCPSEA is ready to bargain 24/7, anytime, anywhere. BCPSEA has a fair offer on the table. However, the BCTF leadership is asking for a pay increase and other benefits that are more than four times what other public sector unions have recently settled for and their total demands are well beyond what taxpayers can afford. That remains a key stumbling block to meaningful bargaining,” Fassbender said.

“It is truly puzzling that BCTF leadership continues to express such great and unwarranted concern that BCPSEA’s response somehow puts at risk extracurricular activities. The true disruption to student learning comes from the BCTF leadership’s decision to turn students away from their classrooms,” he said, concluding, “Parents and students don’t deserve this disruption. We should be resolving this dispute at the negotiating table, not in the classroom or on the picket line.”

Lead image: Teachers at Steeples Elementary School in Cranbrook on the picket line last week, May 26. Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW


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