The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced their plans this week to strike through the summer if a deal is not reached before the end of June.
“As there’s been no progress since the BCTF last made significant moves that brought both sides closer together, teachers will continue to strike into the summer,” BCTF president Jim Iker said during a press conference Wednesday.
“If the government does not come forward with new funding to reach a settlement by June 30, teachers are prepared to extend the strike into summer and picket out summer school.”
While the move was meant to put more pressure on the government, Education Minister Peter Fassbender replied by saying it “will impact thousands of students and it will do little to bring the parties closer to an agreement.”
“The BCTF continues to demand wages and benefits that are more than double what other public sector workers have received,” Fassbender said. “On top of that, they are striking for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.”
Iker said the two parties were closer on wages than Fassbender implied.
“Despite the government’s misleading ads and blatant attempts to make the gap seem bigger, both parties are only one per cent apart on wages. We can get a fair settlement there. The hold-up is a lack of commitment to adequately fund improvements to class size, class composition and staffing levels for specialist teachers,” Iker said.
The BCTF called for mediator Vince Ready to step in and help end the dispute last week, but the renowned B.C. mediator said his schedule was too full to tackle the job.
On behalf of the province, the BC Public School Employers’ Association then sent out a press release saying they were in favour of securing a mediator, but that “regardless of the process going forward, the union must still deal with the fact that the solution to getting an agreement before June 30 is not simply changing from an expert and respected facilitator to an expert and respected mediator.”
The B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) this week called for an “act of good faith by both parties.”
The BCSTA asked both sides to “immediately resume bargaining and to suspend all strike and lock-out actions now that both sides have agreed to a mediator.”
As of Coast Reporter press time Thursday morning there was no end to strike or lock-out actions and no mediator had been secured; however, both sides were talking.
On the Coast there is no scheduled summer school, so the summertime picketing of teachers won’t affect student learning, superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking said.
Student report cards will, however, be affected.
This week Bocking sent out a letter to parents explaining that students in kindergarten to Grade 9 will not receive report cards due to the teachers’ strike.
“Unless your school principal has notified you otherwise, your child will progress to the next grade in September,” Bocking wrote.
Students in grades 10 to 12 will have a report card mailed out to them sometime in July as the Labour Relations Board deemed those marks essential.
“The report cards will include final marks, but most will not have comments or work habits included,” Bocking said.
© Coast Reporter