On Wednesday, April 23 teachers across B.C. enacted a stage one strike that will shift some of their work onto administrators until the government tables a “fair deal” or teachers up the pressure by moving to a stage two strike.
“Stage two will be rotating strikes where you will see one day a week across this province where schools will be closed, but that’s for the future depending how bargaining’s going,” B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker said at a press conference announcing the stage one strike.
Under stage one teachers will not: do any mandated supervision of students outside class time; attend any meetings with management; provide management with (or receive) any printed, written or electronic communication; be at a the worksite prior to one hour before class starts.
“I will not speculate on how long stage one will last. It will depend entirely on the progress at the bargaining table,” Iker said. “It’s my hope and my expectation that this government and the BC Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) will now show some meaningful movement. We do not want to escalate our job action, but we are prepared to do so if needed.”
Teachers are unwilling to sign a 10-year deal with the province, give up their court- approved right to bargain class size, composition and staffing levels or accept the employer’s assertion there is no money for raises.
“In starting stage one job action, we are hopeful government will begin to feel pressure and move on key issues,” said Louise Herle, Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association president. “This government and BCPSEA must move away from their 10-year scheme, offer a fair wage increase and improve working and learning conditions.”
The government has shown no sign of giving into teachers’ demands, saying instead that the teachers need to rework their request.
“There has been virtually no movement from the BCTF on their wage and contract positions,” Minister of Education Peter Fassbender said. “Their union hasn’t moved off its opening position of approximately 13.5 per cent increase over three years, nor has it withdrawn any of its many other monetary proposals.”
He said BCPSEA would respond to the teachers’ strike on behalf of the province.
“I’m informed that the employers’ association will respond to the BCTF’s strike in an appropriate and principled manner to put commensurate pressure on the union,” Fassbender said. “I believe that this is a responsible approach.”
Meanwhile School District No. 46 (SD46) is urging parents to get prepared for an escalation in strike activity.
“One piece that parents need to be well aware of is that possibility of teachers going on a full strike and if it’s just one day then we will get 48 hours notice, but I want to make sure that they’re aware of that so that they have childcare arrangements thought of ahead of time because there might be a bit of a rush if we just get the 48 hours notice,” said superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking.
During phase one Bocking said SD46 is ensuring students still get the supervision they need.
“We’ll make sure that kids have really good supervision before and after school and at all breaks. We do have sufficient staff to do that with educational assistants and other management people and of course principals and vice principals will be doing more supervision than they’ve done before, so all of that will be covered,” he said.
While students won’t likely see any impacts during phase one, principals will be stretched and schools will be impacted.
“When principals are doing supervision they’re not doing other things like meeting with parents, meeting with students, meeting with teachers, and so those conversations that are really important for the movement of our school district are not happening, so essentially that’s what’s going to be missing,” Bocking said.
Parents can keep up to date with the situation on the school district website at www.sd46.bc.ca. Bocking encourages parents with questions or concerns to talk to their child’s principal.
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