$8 million in interest-free loans pledged to B.C. teachers by labour unions

VANCOUVER – A group of unions in British Columbia have offered the BC Teachers’ Federation $8 million in interest-free loans as the current education dispute drags on.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), the Hospital Employee’s Union (HEU), United Steelworkers (USW), Cope 378, Public Service Allicance of Canada (PSAC), the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. (FPSE), the Health Sciences Association (HSA) and Unifor have all collectively pledged the money.

The union for BC Hydro workers also asked its membership this week to set aside $100,000 from its reserves and the results of that vote are expected within the next few weeks.

The BC Nurses’ Union has now announced they are giving the BCTF half a million dollars.

The money will be given to the teachers’ hardship fund, to support teachers and their families on the picket line.

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“BCNU is giving teachers $500,000 to assist them in the fight for quality public education,” said BCNU president Gayle Duteil. “I have heard from our members they want us to show support for teachers. BCNU’s provincial council was unanimous in its desire to make a sizeable contribution. We believe this significant sum will help teachers stand strong against a government trying to bleed them dry.”

The BC Federation of Labour said the financial support will help make sure the province doesn’t undermine the teachers rights to strike.

“We’re not going to let money be a problem for 41,000 teachers who are standing up for public education,” said Jim Sinclair, president of the federation. “Because let us be clear. What’s on the table in this round of bargaining is a decent education system. We owe a debt of gratitude to these teachers who have given up their paycheck to try to put the money and resources back in the system so our children can get a decent education.”

As the dispute continues, many teachers have expressed concern that their money has run out with no savings left and no way to pay the bills.

“So, as a small token of that, we have pledged in interest-free loans to the BCTF eight million dollars,” added Sinclair. “That eight million dollars is going to support teachers who are supporting children.”

Teachers are voting on Wednesday on whether they want binding arbitration to be used as a way to end the current dispute.

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– With files from The Canadian Press