Teachers’ strike ‘imminent’


Christine Wood / Staff Writer
June 16, 2014 03:57 PM

Sunshine Coast teachers rallied alongside supporters in Gibsons this morning (June 16) after learning the government rejected the latest offer tabled by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).

Failure to reach a deal makes Tuesday’s full scale teachers’ strike a certainty.

“The strike is imminent. Our executive committee is meeting today and we’ll look at all our options,” BCTF president Jim Iker said during a press conference Monday morning. “Government had the opportunity to get a deal this weekend and they squandered it.”

He said the BCTF tabled a series of changes to their proposals on Friday however the government didn’t respond until Sunday with a proposal that was “a step backward.”

“There was a real opportunity to fix a lot of what they’ve broke. Instead of the flexibility and open mind that the government promised, we only saw more stonewalling and unwillingness to even consider new ideas. Instead of bargaining 24/7 as Minister Fassbender promised in every single media interview last week and even today, the government sat on their hands for two days,” Iker said. “We made all these proposals, reducing our wage proposal, [creating] a new fund for class size and composition and a potential fix on retroactive grievances on Friday and then we waited. The government did not respond fully until Sunday evening. Almost a full 48 hours later.”

The latest BCTF offer spells out a five-year term and reduces salary proposals to within one per cent of the government’s previous offer.

The provincial government countered Sunday with a reduction in their wage offer for teachers, Iker said.

“They went from seven and a quarter per cent over six years to seven per cent. It’s almost unheard of to backtrack on a wage offer,” he noted.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a press release Monday that he appreciated everyone “had hoped to see an agreement over the weekend.”

He said the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) worked hard to get a deal over the weekend, however he wasn’t willing to talk about the BCPSEA proposal currently on the table.

“Specifics around proposals will be shared when appropriate, but I can say that BCPSEA tabled a significant, affordable and creative set of proposals to help end the stalemate, get kids back in school and create long-term stability for parents, students and teachers,” Fassbender said. “BCPSEA worked hard to put its best foot forward. They tabled a comprehensive settlement that includes an improved wage offer and commits to realistic and flexible solutions to address class composition.”

While both sides maintain their goal is to get an agreement at the bargaining table, neither would commit to a specific date to sit down and talk again this week.

This Tuesday, June 17 a full scale walkout of teachers around B.C. will take place. How long the strike will last is unknown at this time.

Coast Reporter will have more on this story in the coming days as updates are available.

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