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Teachers to take a vote to escalate up to full-scale strike
Faced with a government they say is unwilling to respond to their most urgent issues at the bargaining table, B.C. teachers will decide together whether to escalate their rotating strikes to a full walkout.
British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker announced Wednesday that teachers will participate in a strike vote on Monday, June 9 and Tuesday, June 10, 2014.
The ballot question will ask whether they approve of escalation up to and including a full withdrawal of services
Meanwhile, Education Minister Peter Fassbender promised B.C. parents and students on Thursday that all provincial exams would happen and that students would get their final marks, even if teachers go on a full-scale strike before the end of the year.
Fassbender said he doesn’t know how he will make that happen, but he said it would happen nonetheless.
“The commitment, without any hesitation, is they will be able to finish their year, their exams, the marking of those exams — and that is not something that will be open to discussion,” he told reporters.
Ministry staff and the teachers’ employer have started working out a plan for how they’ll minimize report card disruptions, though they hadn’t yet finalized details, Fassbender said.
The BCTF also announced on Thursday that the series of one-day rotating strikes across the province will continue next week.
Teachers employed by School District 53 area in the South Okanagan, including Osoyoos Elementary School and Osoyoos Secondary School, will return to the picket lines next Friday, June 13.
This second province-wide vote by the more than 29,000 members of the BCTF is needed to demonstrate to government and the employer that teachers are determined to achieve gains on salary, class size and composition, and support for students with special needs, said Iker.
“Yesterday we reduced our salary proposal as part of a series of significant moves at the bargaining table, but the government responded with nothing,” said Iker. “Despite this demonstration of good will, the government remains entrenched in its position. They have not moved on the salary offer tabled back in April. And to date, they have not put a single dollar onto the bargaining table to ensure class-size limits, class-composition guarantees, and minimum levels of specialist teachers into the collective agreement.”
Their current offer would see teachers take two more years of zeros after just coming off two years of legislated zeros, said Iker.
Teachers last got a raise in July 2010.
“Instead of focusing on solutions in the last two weeks, the government moved ahead with its ill-conceived and chaotic lockout. Even before today’s LRB ruling, the BCTF Executive Committee met to discuss next steps,” Iker said. “We decided last night that the time has come to apply even more pressure to the negotiating table to get a fair deal and better support for students.”
Iker reiterated that teachers do not take job action lightly.
“This is never an easy decision because every single one of us wants the best for our students, but we believe that parents understand what we’re fighting for,” he said. “We hope that the vote in itself will apply pressure to both sides and hopefully spur the movement needed from the employer that will help us reach a deal, he said.”
He indicated that there is still time to avert a full-scale strike. “If Premier Christy Clark is sincere about labour peace and putting families first, she can give BCPSEA the funding to bring us closer together to enable a deal. But, she must act soon.”
The Osoyoos Times will continue to update the dispute between the BCTF and provincial government when new information comes forward.
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES