WATCH ABOVE: A teacher who says she has only $6 in her bank account is calling on the BCTF to reach a deal. Asa Rehman reports.
Katie Caines says she’s at the end of her rope.
Four years after graduating from UBC’s Bachelor of Education program, she’s been a teacher in prisons, a teacher-librarian, a split-level class teacher, a home economics teacher, and a teacher in every part of Metro Vancouver.
At 37 years old, she’s a single mother of twin nine-year-old daughters.
Today she says she has $6 in her bank account, is at risk of losing her home and feels compelled to speak out.
“I have to put my children first,” she says.
“I love my students, I care for them they’re very important, but I have to put my family first. I can’t afford to not pay my bills for the sake of sacrificing for others.”
As the labour dispute between the provincial government and BCTF affects a new school year, Caines has gone three months without a paycheque, and is wondering how to pay her bills.
WATCH: Students should have gone to bed Monday excited about school. Instead, they face a labour dispute with no end in sight. Catherine Urquhart reports
She didn’t have a full year contract and wasn’t eligible for yearlong pay. Because she’s guaranteed employment, she’s ineligible for Employment Insurance. And Caines says potential employers know she’s a teacher, and won’t hire someone who can only commit temporarily.
Caines says that she’s cut back on vacations and entertainment for her kids this summer – “a lot of Netflix and Minecraft” – but savings and loans from family members have been stretched to the limit. And she says she’s not alone.
I’ve heard similar hardships, quite a few of the young teachers, or teachers that come from duel-teacher families are at risk of losing their houses, or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage payments,” she says.
“They’re cutting their bills because they can’t afford to pay their hydro bill or phone bill or borrow money from their families.”
The BCTF announced in June that their strike pay fund was empty, and has relied on donations from other unions and food banks to assist members in recent months. Caines says the BCTF has also offered her a short-term loan.
Caines says she’d prefer it if her union goes back to the bargaining table.
“They need to reevaluate the way they’re approaching the government,” she says, adding that she’s talked to her local executive, but they’ve told her they need to stand firm.
“There needs to be a better way. We need to get back to work. I need to get back to work. I can’t go into October, which is what it’s sounding like, without working.”
Caines says she’s had classes where 11 of 21 students had special needs, and fully agrees with the BCTF’s stance on class size and composition.
But she wonders what the end game will be.
“They’re looking out for B.C.’s kids, yes they are, but are they looking out for the teachers? They’re not looking out for me.”