June 12, 2014 11:40 pm

UPDATE: BCTF and government both promise ’round-the-clock’ bargaining to strike a deal

Update: Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker issued a full-scale strike notice Thursday morning, which will begin on Tuesday, June 17, and will continue until a deal is reached with the government or the union is legislated back to work.

On Monday, June 16, teachers will be participating in a province-wide study session to review BCTF’s revised funding proposals and teachers will not be picketing, according to Iker.

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While Iker indicated his hopes are to avoid a full-scale strike, he is asking Premier Christy Clark to bring more funds to the table to get what he calls “a fair deal for teachers and students.”

Peppered by questions from the media, Iker would not comment on the fate of summer school classes.

The issue of marking provincial exams for Grades 10 -12 and providing final marks for Grade 12 students by June 20 was ruled as essential services, which teachers have to provide, by the Labour Relations Board earlier this morning.

In a follow-up press conference Education Minister Peter Fassbender expressed his disappointment in the union’s announcement of their strike notice and study session day.

“We as government have said that if the BCTF was prepared to end their strike that we are committed, and we still are, to be at the table 24/7 to get a negotiated settlement,” Fassbender said.

“So my last message to everyone – a commitment on behalf of the premier and our government is we are going to be at the table as long as it takes this weekend. And the optimist in me says that if the BCTF comes with reasonable responses to finding a settlement, we will be able to negotiate a deal — and that will be good for everyone.”

Cancellation of classes on Monday due to the study sessions will be made by individual districts.

Rotating strikes will continue as planned today and tomorrow.

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In an email sent to union members on Wednesday night (full text below) and obtained by The Canadian Press, it stated:

“We believe that at this time, the best way to increase the pressure at the bargaining table is with increased job action. Given growing public support, our high strike vote, our determination and resolve, it is time to act.”

“We are also serving three working days notice to proceed with full strike action beginning Tuesday, June 17. We believe that the combined actions of bargaining hard and the solidarity of standing together are the key ingredients needed to get a deal that works for teachers and for our students before June 30 and hopefully sooner.”

The BCTF and the B.C. government are still negotiating with the hopes that a full-scale strike will be averted.

On Tuesday night, B.C. teachers voted yes to escalate job action to a full-scale strike.

In total, 33,387 teachers voted, with 86 per cent voting yes to fully withdraw services. This is one of the highest voting turnouts in the history of the BCTF.

“British Columbians should be very proud of their teachers, they are resilient, creative, caring and determined to make every single child count,” Iker said on Tuesday. “They have stood up to a government that has violated their constitutional rights twice.”

“They advocate every single day for their students and the need to get them more support.”

There are still a lot of questions remaining around what this means for provincial exams and report cards. Arguments are being made at the Labour Relations Board starting Wednesday night to determine whether exams and report cards for Grades 10 to 12 will be deemed ‘essential services’ for teachers.

The teachers’ contract expired in June 2013. In March 2014 teachers voted to begin the first round of job action and in late April teachers halted a limited number of duties.

Then in late May they began rotating strikes that shut down schools in every district for one day a week.

The government responded by partially locking out teachers and docking 10 per cent of their pay.

During the job action teachers have lost wages and the BCTF has said there will not be any money left in the strike fund by the end of the week.

What this full-scale strike means for your children:

From kindergarten to Grade 9:

Schools will be closed, parents may have to make child care arrangements and comments on final report cards may be shorter than usual.

From Grade 10 to 12:

There may be picket lines outside schools, schools will likely only be open for the purpose of exams and provincial exams will be marked in as timely a manner as possible.

Source: The Ministry of Education

THE FULL EMAIL:

June 11, 2014

Highest turnout ever
Thank you, colleagues, for your solidarity and your outstanding vote of support. We reported the results last night but we want to acknowledge that more than 80% of you cast your ballots with 86% voting in favour of escalating job action. Your vote gives the bargaining team the undisputed mandate to get the fair deal we need for ourselves and better support for students.

Next steps
The BCTF Executive Committee met today to discuss our next steps. The BCTF bargaining team has reviewed and revised our bargaining package. As we have stated repeatedly bargaining is about compromise, but only if compromise moves us forward. We believe that at this time, the best way to increase the pressure at the bargaining table is with increased job action. Given growing public support, our high strike vote, our determination and resolve, it is time to act.

The Executive Committee has decided that June 16 will be a study session day throughout the province as part of Stage 2 action. The study session will give members the opportunity to review our revised bargaining package. Furthermore, we suggest during the study session that members take the time to do what you are doing so well. Continue to tell your stories about life in classrooms and schools. Send these stories to local and provincial media, write to MLAs and trustees, post on Facebook, and tweet to your followers. Your local will organize the study sessions and your local president will send you information once plans are in place.

We are also serving three working days notice to proceed with full strike action beginning Tuesday, June 17. We believe that the combined actions of bargaining hard and the solidarity of standing together are the key ingredients needed to get a deal that works for teachers and for our students before June 30 and hopefully sooner.

Please know that both parties are currently involved in discussions. Our intention is to bargain non-stop throughout the weekend. We believe that a small, but important window to negotiate a fair deal exists and we want to take every opportunity to get that deal. We will continue to provide members with any new information.

As a precaution, however, and because the situation is so fluid, the Federation recommends you take personal items that you will need during the summer home with you this week.

BCTF President Jim Iker will publicly announce the escalating job action at a news conference tomorrow morning, June 12 at 7:30 a.m. You can watch the news conference at http://new.livestream.com/BCTF. We want this announcement to remain confidential and ask you not to post or tweet any of this information at this time.

Vancouver and Victoria teachers rally yesterday
Teachers in Vancouver and Victoria were joined by supporters as they rallied to continue building support for our cause. The resounding message from other unions and the public is clear: “Thank you for doing what you are doing. Public education is the foundation of democracy. Stand your ground. Children are worth it.”

Prior to their rally, Victoria teachers also held a study session to discuss the current stakes in bargaining and the importance for teachers to remain strong at this time.

As well, rallies took place in 100 Mile House, Surrey, and Parksville this past weekend. Thank you to all for your enthusiasm and energy.

Again, thank you for your advocacy for public education and everything you are doing to help achieve a fair collective agreement. Together in unity we are stronger.

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JM:nb:tfeu

© Shaw Media, 2014

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