June 5, 2014 1:44 pm
Updated: June 5, 2014 3:56 pm

Education Minister responds to possible escalation of job action

Teachers striking at Terry Fox Secondary School in Port Coquitlam.

Grace Ke, Global News

As members of the teachers’ union are getting ready to vote on a full-scale strike, BCTF president Jim Iker says they want a deal before the end of June.

Teachers will be taking a vote on Monday, June 9 and Tuesday, June 10 to get a mandate for escalated job action.

Rotating strikes will also continue next week, with the schedule released Thursday.

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On Wednesday, the Labour Relations Board has ruled that the government’s 10 per cent wage to teachers during rotating strikes is not illegal, and can proceed.

Iker’s decision to take a vote on the full-scale strike followed shortly after.

“It was not a decision that we took lightly because we care about our students,” he says. “Part of our action is about improving the conditions that our students learn in.”

Iker says whether teachers walk out will depend on progress made at the bargaining table.

“We know with the essential services designation that we have, we will have to give a 72-hour notice before we move to our next stage, so we can be there within two weeks,” he says. “We hope that this vote will put the pressure on government to actually come to the table in good faith.”

Meanwhile, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said on Wednesday the government wants to get an agreement “by the end of June” as well.

“A full strike is only going to keep more students out of their classrooms, create more disruption for parents, while teachers and support workers caught in the middle will lose even more in wages. There is no bottomless pit of money, and the rotating strikes are certainly not going to help teachers’ and support workers’ pocketbooks,” said Fassbender in a statement.

Today, Fassbender said he recognizes the move by B.C. teachers to roll back their salary demands by one per cent earlier this week.

“That is still four times greater than any public sector agreement that we have. But it shows some movement,” he says.

Fassbender says the government will not rush to legislate teachers back.

He also promised the strike won’t affect provincial exams or report cards.

Fassbender would not comment on how it is going to be done with teachers potentially entering a full-scale strike in two weeks, only saying, “[the government] will ensure that every graduate will be able to complete their required exams.”

Global BC legislature bureau chief Keith Baldrey says one option is for the employer to go back to the Labour Relations Board to ask that essential services include the holding and marking of the exams.

Fassbender says they are prepared to bargain 24/7.

“Our desire is the deal with the issues that are important to the education system. We are not going to solve those issues at the picket line.”

School districts affected by rotating strikes on Thursday, June 5:

  • #5 – Southeast Kootenay
  • #8 – Kootenay Lake
  • #34 – Abbotsford
  • #43 – Coquitlam
  • #47 – Powell River
  • #50 – Haida Gwaii
  • #51 – Boundary
  • #53 – Okanagan Similkameen
  • #54 – Bulkley Valley
  • #60 – Peace River North
  • #61 – Greater Victoria
  • #69 – Qualicum
  • #73 – Kamloops Thompson
  • #84 – Vancouver Island West
  • #91 – Nechako Lakes
  • #92 – Nisga’a

The full schedule of rotating strikes this week can be found here.

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