As School District No. 46 (SD46) prepared for a one-day teachers’ strike this week, they learned of another one planned for next week.
The night before Thursday’s planned walkout on the Coast, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced they would continue rotating strikes the following week, closing Coast schools once again on Tuesday, June 3.
Other school districts throughout the province will also be shut down next week on a rotating basis as teachers continue their phase two job action.
BCTF president Jim Iker said in a press release the continued job action was necessary because the government was “still refusing to put the necessary funding on the table to reach a reasonable deal on issues like class size, composition, staffing levels and fair wages for teachers.”
He also chastised Premier Christy Clark for the lockout imposed on teachers that includes a reduction in work with a corresponding 10 per cent wage cut and a full lockout from June 25 to 27 unless an agreement is ratified before that time.
“Christy Clark’s ill-conceived, confusing and chaotic lockout was drummed up to justify her attack on our wages,” Iker said. “B.C. teachers have showed incredible strength and resolve to achieve a fair deal for ourselves and better support for our students.”
Teachers came together in support of their union’s fight on Thursday, May 29, on the Coast, carrying signs and handing out information on picket lines that sprang up at school district sites across the Coast.
School district employees covered by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) were also invited to join the picket lines, and many took part. Some parents also came out to carry signs and show their support.
Other parents worried about what the coming weeks would bring.
Things were confusing for parents this week as teachers cancelled some field trips and extra-curricular activities, saying the lockout meant they weren’t covered by WorkSafe BC if something were to happen to them while doing those volunteer activities.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) said teachers were covered and could continue with their volunteer efforts, but teachers wouldn’t accept the assertion.
“Until the lockout is lifted or until we have written confirmation from [WorkSafe], teachers are not covered for student liability issues. They are not covered from [WorkSafe] for any personal injury,” said Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association (SCTA) president Louise Herle.
BCPSEA later released a written communication from WorkSafe BC confirming teachers were covered, but Herle said it wasn’t acceptable.
“BCTF’s advice has not changed. Notice the statement from WorkSafe says members will be ‘covered,’ meaning covered by WorkSafe policies. It does not say they will be compensated for injuries,” Herle said.
She put the blame on the government for the uncertainty and “chaos” that resulted as teachers cancelled special events and activities across the province.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender shifted the blame to the BCTF.
“I am profoundly disappointed that while we’re still at the table with all of the talk that has been going on, that children and parents and communities are continuing to be held hostage and put in the middle of this dispute. It’s unfortunate,” Fassbender said during a press conference this week. “I feel very strongly that we have come to the table with a real goal to get a negotiated settlement. We’ve made significant moves both on the term of the agreement, on the wage settlement side, in terms of a signing bonus that we’ve offered, and I really still feel, based on the information that I have, that we haven’t seen a response from the BCTF that really comes with the willingness to negotiate.”
While the strikes and lockouts continue, SD46 assistant superintendent of schools Greg Kitchen said SD46 will do what they can to keep parents up to date through their website at www.sd46.bc.ca and through telephone and written communications.
“These things are always fluid, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one quite so fluid,” Kitchen said. “It just seems to be moment-by-moment and day-by-day and there’s so many pieces.”
He noted that Coast teachers and the District are talking and working out ways to ensure important events continue, but some things may be affected.
“We have great relationships with CUPE, we have great relationships with our teachers’ union, and this really is a provincial fight. Unfortunately it’s impacting our kids, and our kids are losing some opportunities, but at the end of the day we’re going to move forward,” he said.
© Coast Reporter