B.C. teachers’ strike: The timeline

B.C. teachers’ strike: The timeline - image

The labour dispute between B.C. teachers and provincial government has been dragging on for months, delaying the beginning of the school year.

Here is how how events unfolded, leading to the bitter dispute escalation that British Columbians are faced with today.

On March 7, B.C. public school teachers vote overwhelmingly (89 per cent) in favour of job action, but BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker says there will be no immediate job action.

On April 17, teachers issue a 72-hour strike notice, saying strike action will begin as early as April 23.

Later that month, teachers start phase one of their strike plan that involves teachers not meeting or communicating with school administrators.

On May 26, teachers begin a series of rotating strikes that would last for three weeks.

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BCTF announces Stage 2 of the strike process that was supposed to include four days of rotating strikes.

Around the same time, provincial government agrees to offer a $1,200 signing bonus if a new collective bargaining agreement was reached before the end of the school year. They also threaten to roll back wages by five per cent, going up to as much as 10 per cent, if job action doesn’t end.

Meanwhile, BCTF calls for $450 million a year, including retroactive pay and for class size and composition changes along with increased medical benefits. The union also asls for an eight per cent wage increase over five years and a $5,000 signing bonus.

But the province offers seven per cent over six years plus a smaller signing bonus of $1,200, which expires at the end of June.

By the end of June, it is clear the two parties need outside help and ask mediator Vince Ready to intervene. However, Ready declines the job due to a busy schedule.

On June 11, teachers vote yes to escalate job action to a full-scale strike, with 86 per cent voting yes to fully withdraw services.

Ahead of the vote, the union admits its war chest is empty and it won’t be able to dole out more strike pay. Teachers were paid $50 per day for the duration of the rotating strikes.

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Meanwhile, education support staff reach a tentative agreement with the provincial government, a day before teachers across the province begin voting on a full-scale strike.

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On June 17, teachers start a full-scale walkout.

At the same time, the Labour Relations Board rules that provincial exams for Grades 10 through 12 and final marks for Grade 12 students are essential services.

Provincial exams continue despite full-scale strike.

READ MORE: Class Sizes: how B.C. classrooms stack up with others in Canada

The talks between BCTF and government break down in July, with a number of school districts cancelling their summer school classes and programs. 

The two sides say they are close on solving the wage issue, but the biggest gap comes from funding for the classroom.

The government announces B.C. parents will receive $40 per day per child under the age 13 if schools are not open in September, paid by savings from the teachers’ strike.

The Vancouver School Board calls for outside intervention in the dispute, saying an industrial inquiry commissioner should be brought in.

In early August, the two parties agree to return to the bargaining table. 

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Jim Iker challenges the government to begin mediation in late August at a conference in Kamloops, with education minister Peter Fassbender responding positively to the suggestion.

With one week to go before the scheduled first day of school, picket lines go up in school districts around the province. 

Mediator Vince Ready finally agrees to meet with the two sides at the end of August, bringing a glimmer of hope to thousands of parents and students across the province.

Ready has been singled out as the miracle man who can help end the dispute.

WATCH: Class composition: A crucial issue with few easy solutions

Over the Labour Day long weekend, negotiations break down when Ready declares an impasse because the sides are too far apart. Both parties accuse each other of refusing to budge on contract demands, with the government suggesting the gulf is $300 million while the union says it has already chopped $100 million from its proposal.

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Jim Iker says clause E80 that deals with learning conditions in the classroom is one of the biggest impediments to the two sides reaching a deal.

READ MORE: What is proposal “E80″ and why is it so contentious?

Schools around the province remain closed Sept.2, what was supposed to be the first day back for thousands of public school students and teachers around the province.

Premier Christy Clark breaks her silence on the dispute and calls on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to suspend or end the strike, which Iker rejects.

At the end of the first week back with no school, BCTF president Jim Iker declares teachers will take a vote on whether they are prepared to end the current strike if the B.C. government agrees to binding arbitration. Education minister responds, saying binding arbitration is not in the cards.

On Wednesday, Sept. 10, teachers vote 99 per cent in favour of binding arbitration to be used to resolve the ongoing dispute.

Following the vote, education minister reiterates binding arbitration is not an option. He once again calls on the BCTF to suspend the strike.

On the same day, a group of unions in British Columbia offers the BC Teachers’ Federation $8 million in interest-free loans. A coalition representing 160,000 Ontario public school teachers also donates $100,000 to British Columbia’s teachers’ union.

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A poll commissioned by Global News finds Brtish Columbians are divided about the ongoing education dispute, with neither side seen as caring about the best interests of students.

On Thursday, Fassbender announces government’s flexibility on the contentious E80 clause, saying it could be negotiated.

Both sides are back at the bargaining table on Friday, Sept. 12, giving some hope to thousands of teachers, parents and students across the province.

Meanwhile, Premier Christy Clark says she thinks she can get a negotiated deal before she travels to India for a trade mission that’s scheduled to start Oct. 9.

Talks, involving Vince Ready, continue virtually non-stop at a Richmond hotel over the weekend. Due to a media blackout, there are no details on how much either side has moved in the dispute.

A tentative deal is reached between BCTF and government in the morning hours of Tuesday, Sept.16 after a marathon negotiation session.  No details have been disclosed so far.

The BCTF takes the details of the agreement to the teachers for a vote on Thursday, Sept.18. Teachers vote 86 per cent in favour of the deal with most students returning to class Monday.

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