As Coast Reporter went to press Thursday morning, teachers gave notice they will move to a full-scale strike on Tuesday, June 17, and hold a province-wide study session day on Monday, resulting in school closures that day as well.
B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker said the only way to avoid the teacher walkout is to get a deal in place before Monday.
“To get a fair deal and avert a full-scale strike, B.C. teachers are looking for improvements to class size, class composition and staffing levels for specialist teachers to increase one-on-one time for students,” Iker said Thursday morning.
“In addition to improvements to student learning conditions, a fair deal must also include a fair wage increase for teachers.”
While School District No. 46 is hopeful a deal can be reached this weekend, administrators are telling parents to be prepared for Friday, June 13, to be the last day of school.
“We are really optimistic that the provincial bargaining teams are going to come up with a fair agreement, but it would be prudent for students to bring personal items home on Friday,” superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking said.
He noted that regardless of the teachers’ strike, final exams would be held and marked.
The provincial government had a request before the Labour Relations Board asking for the administering and marking of final exams to be ruled an essential service, which would require teachers to come back to do the work.
Word came at press time that request was granted.
“We’re pleased to learn that last night the Labour Relations Board agreed that provincial exams are an essential service,” Minister of Education Peter Fassbender announced Thursday morning.
“That means students in grades 10 to 12 will be able to write their exams as scheduled, and Grade 12 students will receive their final marks in a timely manner.”
Graduation ceremonies on the Coast will also go forward as planned, no matter what happens with the teachers’ strike.
“The principals and parent volunteers and the rest of us will work hard to make sure that all of the organization of the grads is prepared, and we will celebrate the achievements of our students. We’re going to be very excited to be doing that,” Bocking said.
“There shouldn’t be any reason to change any dates or locations.”
Fassbender didn’t release a statement on the strike escalation by press time but said earlier in the week that he believed “teachers deserve a raise, but their total compensation demands are about four times more than other recent settlements.”
He also noted that the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association “has a fair wage offer on the table, one that’s in line with recent agreements, covering nearly 150,000 public sector workers, including 34,000 school support workers.”
On June 8 the province reached an agreement with education support staff workers covered by the Canadian Union of Public Employees that saw them sign a five-year contract.
“This is a clear reminder that the bargaining system is not broken,” Fassbender said.
“Over the past 13 years, we’ve successfully negotiated over 850 public-sector agreements. But success rests on the parties coming to the table with realistic expectations, flexible solutions and willingness to engage in meaningful bargaining."
© Coast Reporter