The BC Teachers’ Federation notified the BC Public School Employers’ Association on Wednesday that it will continue rotating strikes around the province next week, as negotiations continue to settle their long-running dispute over pay and staffing levels.
Kootenay Lake School District (SD8) schools will be closed for a second day of strike action by teachers on Thursday, June 5. District 8 schools were closed Wednesday as part of the first round of the rotating strike.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender reiterated BCPSEA’s latest offer of a $1,200 signing bonus and a six-year contract term, but indicated the union needs to modify its demands and stop strike action.
The BCTF announced stage two of the strike action last week. In response, BCPSEA announced it was partially locking out teachers.
The two groups continue to struggle with contract negations as well as interpretation of the effects of the BCTF’s partial strike action and BCPSEA’s partial lockout.
Teachers aren’t allowed on school property 45 minutes before and after school hours to perform paid duties. The BCTF says that during this time, teachers on school property, including school buses for a field trip, would not be covered by Workers Compensation should they have an injury.
BCPSEA posted consolidated question and answers related to the BCTF strike and the employers’ partial lockout online which began Monday. It stated that teachers are allowed to be on school property for volunteer activities.
BCPSEA also announced a pay cut to BC teachers. The Labour Relations Board was to hear arguments Thursday on whether school districts can cut teacher pay 10 per cent in response to the union’s withdrawal of services.
“Teachers in our community, like teachers across BC, don’t take this job action lightly,” said Paul Boscariol, president of the Nelson District Teachers’ Association. “As teachers, we care deeply about our students and we empathize with parents who have to re-work their schedules. Many of us are parents too. This job action is more than a fair collective agreement. It is also about standing up for public education.”
Boscariol said teachers are forced to step up job action because they’ve been at the bargaining table for 16 months and the provincial government and BCPSEA still refuse to offer any improvements to class size, class composition, and other important learning conditions for students.
“On top of that, the employer’s wage demands are unfair, especially considering that the last time teachers got a raise was July 2010,” he said.
The rotating closures are part of a two-stage strike plan that teachers approved in March, with an 89 per cent yes vote.
While SD8 schools were back in session Thursday, students have another day away from school this Friday, May 30 which is a scheduled planning day for staff.
The provincial collective agreement between BCPSEA and the BCTF expired June 30, 2013.