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Provincial government announces wage cuts and lockouts against all B.C. teachers
The longstanding battle between the B.C. Liberal government and more than 29,000 teachers across the province is getting nasty once again.
Days after the members of the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) announced they would begin a series of rotating strikes – that would see teachers withdraw their services for one day – starting Monday and continuing for four days – the provincial government announced Thursday that they will be rolling back teachers’ wages during the job action and will be imposing a series of partial and full lockouts.
The B.C. government’s attempt to make good on their threat to roll back teachers’ wages during job action will have significant impacts on students for the rest of this school year, said BCTF president Jim Iker.
Iker received a letter from Michael Marchbank, Premier Christy Clark’s appointed head of the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, in which Marchbank stated that because teachers are starting rotating strikes, government intends to claw back 10 per cent of their wages.
The pay cut will be in effect even on days when teachers are in their classrooms working with students to meet their needs, said Iker.
In order to justify the pay cuts, government now is imposing a series of partial and full lockouts.
Starting Monday, May 26, teachers are prohibited from being at school more than 45 minutes before and after class time and they are forbidden from working during recess or lunch hour.
In addition, all secondary teachers will be locked out on June 25 and 26 and both elementary and secondary teachers are to be locked out on June 27.
Iker said that as a result of these latest directives, teachers could be disciplined for helping a struggling student at lunch hour.
Extra-curricular activities including clubs, drama, music, and sports will be cancelled, graduation ceremonies will be impacted, and final exams for some senior secondary students will not be marked, said Iker.
None of these impacts would have occurred under the teachers’ job action plan.
“We were careful to ensure that already scheduled extra-curricular and volunteer activities continued. We wanted to minimize the impact on students,” Iker said. “During rotating strikes, teachers would continue all volunteer activities four out of five days a week.”
The planned lockouts will also impact all Grade 10 English students and Social Studies 11 students who are scheduled to write their provincial exams on June 24.
With all secondary schools under lockout beginning June 25, there will be no teachers present to mark thousands of exams.
“Premier Clark just yesterday said children should not be put in the middle, yet she is imposing significant disruptions to the education system,” said Iker. “We’ve already heard from secondary school teachers that they will be locked out on the day their students graduate.
“Is putting Grade 12 grad on the chopping block Christy Clark’s definition of families first?”
Iker said that the directive prohibiting teachers from interacting with students during the lunch hour will have possibly the most wide-ranging impacts.
“Christy Clark’s lockout will mean teachers would be insubordinate if they helped a struggling student or a child with special needs during the lunch hour,” Iker said. “For many teachers, this is valuable time when students can have that important one-on-one time to ask questions or share their learning.”
Iker called on the B.C. government to own up to their record of bad faith bargaining and come to the bargaining table with resources to reach a fair collective agreement.
“Smaller classes, more support for children with special needs, extra one-on-one time with all kids, and fair wages — these are our key goals in this round of negotiations,” Iker said. “That’s how we will get a deal and that’s how we can end this crisis in education.