B.C. teachers restart picket lines one week before scheduled start of school year

WATCH ABOVE: Keith Baldrey with the latest in the BCTF-provincial government negotiations

VANCOUVER – With one week to go before the scheduled first day of school across B.C., picket lines went back up in Vancouver secondary schools today.

“We’re hoping we will be able to put a little bit of pressure on the Minister and the government to return to the bargaining table and get Vince Ready involved and move on with mediation,” said Debbie Pawluk, President of the Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association, this morning as she walked the picket line.

“We absolutely need Vince Ready. He is a very skilled mediator, and we need him in order to bridge the gap…particularly on our number one issue, which is class size and composition,” said Pawluk.

The Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association says on its website that members will be picketing from Tuesday to Friday, and it is imperative that teachers are out in full force as the beginning of the school year looms.

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READ MORE: Iker renews call for mediation one week before school year scheduled to start

Picket lines are also expected to go up on Wednesday in other school districts across the province.

The union representing B.C.’s 40,000 striking teachers says it will use various tactics, including picket lines, radio ads and protests, in order to pressure the government into reaching a negotiated settlement.

Teachers have been on strike since June, and while both the teachers’ union and the employer say they want classes to resume on Sept. 2 as scheduled, the summer has been mostly devoid of formal negotiations.

Legislative bureau chief Keith Baldrey says parents need to be prepared for the worst, with the possibility of the strike lasting until the middle of October.

“The house is not scheduled to reconvene for it’s fall session until October 6th. So if Government House Leader Mike De Jong sticks to his guns…that means schools would be shut down through September.”

BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker has challenged Education Minister Peter Fassbender to begin mediation, but the ministry says that will only happen if veteran mediator Vince Ready deems it would be productive.

Pawluk say she couldn’t be confident one way or the other if classes would be opened next Tuesday.

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“When you’re bargaining, you always have to remain hopeful,” she said.

“Whether we’ll be ready or not for Tuesday is another question.”

– With files from The Canadian Press