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BCTF gives notice to escalate to full-scale strike on June 17
Osoyoos Elementary School students were told to pack up all of their personal belongings on Thursday after their school year came to a premature end following the announcement by the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) that a full-scale teachers strike will begin on Tuesday,
With the final day of rotating strikes set for Friday, BCTF teachers told not to attend classes on Monday and the strike set to begin Tuesday morning, Thursday marked the end of the school year for Osoyoos Elementary School students.
Thursday also will mark the end of regular classes for more than 300 students at Osoyoos Secondary School.
Mike Safek, the principal at Osoyoos Secondary School, said Thursday was the last day of school for most of the students unless an agreement is reached between the BCTF and provincial government over the weekend.
“In response to the strike notice, we did a number of things, including emailing all parents and informing them of the teachers not being available on Monday and the full strike notice beginning on Tuesday,” he said. “For many of our students, that made today their last day of school this year as all non provincially examinable courses won’t be having final exams. We collected their textbooks and informed all students those exams would be cancelled.”
All final exams for students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 courses that have provincial exams will proceed on the days they were originally scheduled for over the next two weeks, said Safek.
Students in those courses are being allowed to keep their textbooks to allow them to study for final exams and those textbooks will be collected on the days of exams, he said.
Safek said he’s “still waiting for final word” on whether school buses will be running to transport students to final exams and that information will be forwarded to parents once that information has been finalized.
Graduation for Grade 12 students will be held in the school’s gymnasium the evening of Saturday, June 26.
It will be up individual teachers to decide if they want to participate in graduation ceremonies, said Safek.
“They are welcome to come and I certainly encourage them to come to the graduation ceremonies,” he said. “Because this is an evening event on the weekend, it will ultimately be their choice in whether they want to attend or not.”
Safek remains hopeful the BCTF and provincial government can hammer out a last-minute deal before strike action takes place Tuesday.
“That would be absolutely great,” he said. “It would be wonderful to end the year like we usually do on a very positive note.
“Hopefully both sides will be able to reach a deal.”
The Osoyoos Times will continue to provide updates about the teachers strike as more information becomes available on its website at www.osoyoostimes.com.
“We asked all students to take home all of their personal belongings as this will mark the end of the school year” unless there is a negotiated settlement between the provincial government and BCTF before the end of the weekend, said school principal Bo Macfarlane.
Macfarlane confirmed Osoyoos Elementary School will be closed on Monday even though teachers won’t be on the picket line, but will instead be attending staff meetings to prepare for strike action Tuesday morning.
As an administrator, Macfarlane said it’s his duty to “remain neutral” during this labour dispute, but he also has a duty to inform parents that the school year is ending prematurely.
A planned field trip early next week to Vancouver for Grade 6 and 7 students has been cancelled as has the School District 53 elementary track and field meet, he said.
The school year for hundreds of thousands of elementary and secondary students across British Columbia will end either today or Friday following the BCTF’s announcement it has officially served notice to begin a full-scale strike starting on Tuesday.
Under provincial labour laws, the BCTF had to give 72-hour notice to initiate a full-scale withdrawal of services and union president Jim Iker officially gave that notice during a press conference Thursday morning in Vancouver.
A series of rotating strikes by BCTF members began three weeks ago – the final day of rotating strikes will see teachers at Osoyoos Elementary School and Osoyoos Secondary School on the picket lines on Friday.
During a provincewide vote by BCTF members this past Monday and Tuesday, more than 86 per cent voted in favour of escalating to full strike action.
“This week’s vote made it clear that B.C. teachers care deeply about the state of public education and their ability to meet the needs of all their students,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. “As well, it showed how firmly teachers are committed to doing what’s necessary to reach a fair deal.
“After 12 years of deep cuts, 3,500 teaching positions lost, and 200 schools closed, we are urging this government to reinvest in public education. Teachers are doing their utmost in an underfunded and under-resourced system, but students are not getting the support or one-on-one time they need. Our kids deserve so much more.
“There are still several days left, during which both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike, and end the government’s lockout. We’re ready to move, but my message to Christy Clark is, come to the table with new funding, an open mind, and the flexibility needed to reach a fair settlement that will support teachers and students.”
Iker explained that the BCTF has provided the employer with notice that the full withdrawal of services will commence on Tuesday.
In addition, the BCTF has provided notice that Stage 2 job action will be extended to Monday, June 16, with all teachers participating in study sessions province-wide.
Teachers will gather together off school property. Schools will not be picketed, but teachers will not be on site.
For the balance of this week, rotating strikes will continue according to the schedule announced earlier.
Teachers remain locked out by their employer during recess, lunch, and 45 minutes before and after school, preventing them from doing their regular work during lockout hours.
“To get a fair deal and avert a full-scale strike, B.C. teachers are looking for improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers to increase one-on-one time for students,” said Iker. “In addition to improvements to student learning conditions, a fair deal must also include a fair wage increase for teachers.”
Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued a statement about the full-strike notice issued by the BCTF.
“While this is disappointing news for students and parents,the strike notice was not unexpected,” said Fassbender. “That’s why the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) applied last week to designate provincial exams and report cards for senior grads as an essential service. We’re pleased to learn that last night the Labour Relations Board agreed that provincial exams are an essential service.
“That means students in Grades 10 to 12 will be able to write their exams as scheduled and Grade 12 students will receive their final marks in a timely manner.
“Our main focus though, is to get to an agreement by June 30, 2014, and put this disruption behind us. The BCTF has said they want to avoid the strike and they are ready to bargain through the weekend. BCPSEA will be there.
“It took support staff unions five days of hard bargaining to get to an agreement. We can achieve the same thing with teachers if the BCTF comes to the table with realistic expectations and a willingness to find solutions.
“Up to now, the BCTF’s total compensation demands have been four times more than other recent settlements. The BCTF has indicated that they will submit a new wage proposals and BCPSEA looks forward to receiving those.
“Teachers deserve a raise but it must be in line with recent agreements covering nearly 150,000 public sector workers – including 34,000 school support workers. BCPSEA has a fair wage offer on the table that includes a $1,200 signing bonus if we get to an agreement by June 30, 2014.
“I know everyone involved wants to head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability and focused on student outcomes.”
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES