Dispute between B.C. teachers, province leads to rotating strikes
Jesse Tahirali, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:15PM EDT
School isn’t out for the summer yet, but thousands of British Columbia students won’t be in class Monday.
B.C. teachers are set to begin a four-day rotating strike Monday that will see every public school in the province effectively close down for one day by the end of the week. Vancouver is among the first 16 school districts where parents are being told to keep their children home on Monday. A complete strike schedule can be found here.
In total, more than a half a million students are stuck in the middle of a drawn-out dispute between teachers and the province. Since April 23, the first phase of teacher job action has left students without supervision outside of class time, prompting recess to be cancelled in about a dozen districts where administrative staff weren’t able to cover those duties.
In response to the next phase of job action, the government said it will implement a partial lockout, cut teacher pay by 10 per cent and limit the amount of time teachers are allowed to be at work before and after class to 45 minutes.
The direct impact this will have on students isn’t entirely clear. While the B.C. Teachers’ Federation says graduation ceremonies, extracurricular activities and even final exams could be in jeopardy, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association says that isn’t true.
“Teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, including on school property,” reads a memo put out by the BCPSEA. “There is nothing in the lockout that prevents BCTF members from continuing to participate in such activities as graduation, sports, and awards events.”
“If teachers choose not to participate in such activities, they do so as a result of their own decision,” the memo adds.
A history of disagreement
This week’s strike is characteristic of a turbulent history between B.C. teachers and the provincial government. Teachers have been without a contract since June of last year, and though negotiations have been ongoing since October, a peaceful compromise seems unlikely – only once in the past 10 years have the two sides managed to negotiate a contract, with back-to-work legislation often being necessary to get teachers back in front of the blackboard.
At this point, teachers are looking for their first salary increase since 2010, as well as smaller class sizes and a limit to the number of special needs students per classroom. With benefits, the province says the teachers are asking for a 21 per cent raise over the next four years, something that would cost about $2 billion.
The province is offering a 7.25 per cent pay hike over six years and an extra $1,200 bonus per teacher if an agreement is signed by the end of June. The offer comes without any compromise on class size or special needs considerations.
A May 21 bargaining session was cancelled for both sides to consider each other’s offers.
The two sides are each blaming the other for the disruptions students and parents are suffering.
“Every time this goes to job action instead of talking, that’s what happens. Kids get stuck in the middle of it,” B.C. premiere Christy Clark said at a news conference on Tuesday. “And that is wrong”
“This is a problem between adults, and it should stay between adults.”
But president of the BCTF Jim Iker says it’s the premiere’s lockout that is harming students.
“In adopting this strategy, Christy Clark could be the cause of many cancelled field trips, sports tournaments, theatre productions,” he said.
If no compromise is reached before the end of the school term, a full lockout will be imposed by the B.C. government for three days at the end of June, after the exam period has ended. And though each student should only have one school day cancelled for now, it’s an inconvenience that has forced parents to stay home from work or sent scrambling for daycare.
With a report from CTV's Melanie Nagy and files from CTV Vancouver