Three weeks into the BC teachers full strike and not much has changed other than another month on the calendar.
While negotiations and bargaining are supposed to be happening between the government’s bargaining agent, the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the bargaining agent for the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), talks have continued to stall. Over a week ago the two agents met with Justice Stephen Kelleher for a week to see if they could come to an agreement.
BCTF’s Jim Iker said in a press release July 2 that while they are one per cent away for an agreement in wages, the government refuses to discuss students classroom conditions.
“The government wants teachers to accept wage demands before they will even disclose their new proposals on class size and composition,” wrote Iker. “That is unacceptable. At no point during these exploratory talks did the government offer any new money for class size, class composition, or staffing levels for specialist teachers.”
Education Minister Peter Fassbender commented on the discussions in a press release the same day. “The BCTF continues to demand total compensation gains that are more than twice what other unions have settled for,” said Fassbender. “On top of that, they are also pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands. BCPSEA stands ready to negotiate anytime over the summer, with or without a mediator, whenever the BCTF is ready to commit to a fair and affordable settlement.”
Jeff Jones, Kootenay Lake district superintendent, said the district does not normally facilitate summer school programs but a few international students are affected.
“The BCTF has opted not to picket 12-month programs through the summer months, so our distance education school is able to run through the summer,” said Jones.
“Unfortunately the strike is impacting our international program and has created great difficulty in our ability to provide English as a Second Language programming for three students over the summer, and who pay tuition to attend school in our country.”
Provincial exams were marked by principals, vice-principals and senior staff who have been filling in for teachers since the start of the job action at the end of April.
Jones said the school district is very concerned with the impact of the abrupt end to the school year, and “how we will attend to reopening in the new year when, hopefully, we will see an end to the strike.”
He said the district “appreciates the community’s support and patience and hope that those who are at the bargaining table will find an acceptable resolution.”
Paul Boscariol Nelson District Teachers’ Association president (NDTA) said they are officially still locked out as BCPSEA has not formally withdrawn the lockout, except for summer school, year long distributed learning and international programs.
“NDTA members feel angry that the government is not bargaining in good faith. The BCTF has revised their proposals several times, yet there have not been any formal proposals presented from the government. How is bargaining supposed to proceed under those conditions?”
Once teachers’ picket lines came down, CUPE support staff were back to normal working schedules.
“Our CUPE colleagues did a great job supporting us during the picketing and the NDTA is very appreciative of the support,” said Boscariol. While there are no picket lines in SD8 at this time, he said that could change at any time.
“The NDTA executive will be meeting to review how bargaining is proceeding and what steps we can take locally to show support for our bargaining team.”
The BCTF directed teachers to take partial job action on April 23 which included halting volunteer actives. Rotating strike action saw BC public schools closed for one day per week for three weeks before teachers fully withdrew their services on June 17.