VANCOUVER – B.C. teachers have issued 72-hour strike notice.
BCTF president Jim Iker announced that there has been little progress in talks over the past six weeks so it is necessary to issue strike notice.
“On March 6, after over a year of negotiations, 89 per cent of BC teachers voted in favour of potential job action to help secure a fair and reasonable settlement,” said Iker. “The overwhelming vote was a strong and decisive mandate from teachers to put pressure on Christy Clark’s government and the negotiators for the BC Public School Employers’ Association. Teachers hoped that the vote would encourage the government and employer’s association to back off key demands, strips, and unreasonable positions.”
He said B.C.’s 41,000 teachers receive far less pay compared to their counterparts across the country.
Strike action will begin on Wednesday, April 23.
Iker says this is stage one, low-level job action, and will affect admin duties only. It is not known how long this stage will last, as Iker said it depends on how bargaining proceeds. There will be no immediate school closures or disruptions to students. Teachers will continue to teach, write report cards, communicate with parents, and participate in their volunteer extracurricular activities.
“The government and BCPSEA continue to demand concessions while ignoring the BC Supreme Court ruling on class size, composition, and staffing levels. In addition, the unreasonable 10-year term and salary proposals, which include up to two more years of zeros, are still on the table,” said Iker.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a statement that while it is a little disappointing the teachers have served strike notice, it is not surprising.
Over the past few weeks, it appears the BCTF has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table,” he said. “There has been virtually no movement from the BCTF on their wage and contract positions. The union hasn’t moved off its opening position of approximately 13.5% increase over three years, nor has it withdrawn any of its many other monetary proposals.”
“Nobody wants to see a repeat of the six-and-a-half month strike a few years ago where teachers faced no consequences financial or otherwise, for withdrawing a wide range of services – from refusing to write report cards to non-participation in extra-curricular activities. That situation only served to prolong the dispute, to the detriment of students, parents and all public school employees,” Fassbender added.
During Stage 1 job action teachers will not:
“Despite our patience and our measured approach in bargaining, Christy Clark and her government are once again trying to provoke BC teachers and shut down BC schools,” said Iker. “Job action, even low-level action, is always a last resort because teachers care deeply about our schools and our students. That is why teachers are asking for smaller classes, more one-on-one time for our students, extra help for those who need it, and more specialist teachers to enhance every student’s educational experience.”
Stage two of strike action would mean rotating strikes – a one day closure of schools in districts around the province.