Picket lines go up in schools around B.C. as parents and teachers rally in Victoria
Picket lines went up around schools in at least four districts across the province today, including in schools in Kelowna, Kamloops, Langley and Vancouver.
Teachers and parents also held a rally on the steps of the Legislature in Victoria.
They travelled to B.C.’s capital, bearing gifts for the Premier — a box of apples and a petition signed by more than 11,000 people who are calling on the province to return to the bargaining table and make sure schools are open come September 2.
“We are trying to keep the pressure on and make sure that parents’ voices are heard in this,” says Jordan Waters with parents’ coalition Protect Public Education Now.
NDP education critic Rob Fleming was also in Victoria today and says there were a lot of squandered opportunities along the way.
“They have one week to pull it off,” says Fleming.
Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus says she is feeling impatient as well.
“We want to be opening on September 2, and when I am hearing that the parties are not even negotiating, I am extremely frustrated,” says Bacchus.
VSB sent out a letter to all parents today outlining possible scenarios should negotiation talks fail ahead of September 2.
The uncertainty of this situation has a lot of parents in a daycare-searching frenzy.
Organizations that offer day programs for kids like the YWCA and Skills for Kids are in high demand.
Staff at both say they have been flooded with calls from parents looking for placement for their little ones.
But families that don’t have a plan for a day care program locked down at this point could be out of luck.
The YMCA says they have over a thousand names on a wait list.
Community centres, local sports facilities and other places such as the Aquarium are all offering strike programs.
Prices range from $20 a day to upwards of $80 for more specialized classes.
But most are around $40, the same as the daily provincial government child care subsidy for children under 13.
WATCH: Parents scramble to find daycare options. Elaine Yong reports.
At this weekend’s conference in Kamloops, B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker called for mediation to start immediately.
“We’ve been wanting to be at the bargaining table all summer and we were hoping for a negotiated deal before the end of June,” says Iker. “I think we could have got there.”
The BC Teachers Federation hopes the resumption of picketing will pressure the government to enter mediated talks with Vince Ready.
The renowned mediator earlier said he is monitoring the dispute and will get involved if there’s a chance mediation will be productive.
WATCH: Global BC Legislative Bureau Chief Keith Baldrey says it is a very complex dispute that goes beyond wages and benefits for the teachers.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued a statement today, saying he is pleased to hear BCTF is eager to get back to the bargaining table.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) is ready and willing to start mediation,” said Fassbender. “We have one of the best mediators in the country working to resolve this dispute. I’m confident Mr. Ready will start mediation as soon as he believes it will be productive.
Fassbender also says the government has no desire to legislate an end to this dispute.
Meanwhile, teachers are planning a rally for Sept. 2, and protests outside the Premier’s office next week.
With files from Blaine Gaffney, Tanya Beja and Elaine Yong