Osoyoos teachers prepare to hit picket lines next Wednesday as rotating strikes begin

By on May 21, 2014

Thousands of teachers across British Columbia will begin rotating strikes next week, with teachers in Osoyoos and across School District 53 scheduled to hit the picket lines on Wednesday, May 28.

That’s the word from the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) in an announcement on Tuesday regarding their escalated job action.

Federation president Jim Iker said the decision to close schools on a rotational basis came after the provincial government’s unwillingness to offer any improvements to wages, class sizes and composition.

Rotating strikes in B.C. will begin on Monday, May 26 and continue May 27-29.

Iker said all schools will be open Friday, May 30.

“As teachers, we care deeply about our students and their education, but with another round of brutal cuts looming, we need to act now,” Iker said.

He noted the province is funding education $1,000 (per student) less than the national average.

The BCTF is calling for a fair wage deal and improvements to staffing levels for specialist teachers, as well as class size improvements.

The government recently offered a signing bonus and a six-year deal as opposed to the previous 10-year proposal.

But it also threatened a wage rollback if teachers didn’t get on board, said Iker.

The BCTF said rotating strikes could continue if there is no progress at the bargaining table, said Iker.

It is believed that the escalation in job action also means extra-curricular activities will be cancelled.

“Last week, teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,” said Iker. “But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts, and attempts to divide teachers, parents, and students.”

B.C. teachers are beginning this “low-level job action to put pressure on government and BCPSEA to bring fair offers to the table,” said Iker.

“Unfortunately, the employer has steadfastly refused to table any improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers. Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students’ learning conditions, in B.C. Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.”

Any extension of the rotating job action will depend on events at the bargaining table, said Iker.

The rotating closures are part of a two-stage strike plan voted on by teachers in March.

During that vote, teachers gave their bargaining team an overwhelming mandate to begin low-level job action and then move to rotating strikes if meaningful progress was not made in negotiations.

In all, 29,301 teachers cast ballots and 89 per cent voted in favour of the two-stage job action plan.

If this government is serious about labour peace they should offer teachers a fair deal and show some good faith, said Iker.

“We will remain at the bargaining table. There are days left before the first schools shut down. I encourage Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender to be in touch, move off their unreasonable demands, and empower BCPSEA to negotiate a fair deal.”

Bev Young, local superintendent of schools, could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday.

LYONEL DOHERTY

Special to the Times

 

 

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