B.C. teachers start rotating strikes

B.C. teachers strike as sides return to table in long-standing dispute

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – As British Columbia teachers walked picket lines on Monday, the union and its employer resumed bargaining with pledges to stop further escalation in a dispute that has forced families to make alternate plans for half a million schoolchildren.

All parties in the simmering conflict were lamenting the closure of schools in Vancouver and 15 other districts in job action launched by the union as part of four days of rotating strikes.

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he was grieved to see children pulled into a labour dispute, but firmly stated the government wouldn’t force a resolution.

“I have said consistently, (and) the premier has, we want a negotiated settlement. To rush to legislation is not where we’re going to go,” he told reporters in Victoria.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said he was hopeful that the heightened job action would pressure the employer to make a new offer.

“Our goal is not to be on the picket line. We didn’t want to be doing this,” he said outside Charles Dickens elementary school in Vancouver. “What I’m hoping for is we start making the necessary progress at the bargaining table so we get closer to a deal.”

Teachers sporting signs from their necks walked loops around their institutions, describing the back-and-forth dealings over the week leading up to the strike with words like “confusing,” “frustrating” and “crazy.”

But they were also optimistic that an agreement could be reached.

“I guess we hope it’s going to lead some place good, eventually,” said Tami McDirmid, who teaches grades five to seven.

“Everybody seems to have a different story. So I guess we’re learning to be patient, we’re learning to wait for clear direction from our union.”

Parent Christy Thomas, whose 10-year-old daughter was heading to gymnastics camp for the day, brought teachers banana muffins and said she felt like the government was “acting like bullies.”

“I’ve just been shocked at the kind of tactics in the background and my eyes are just becoming opened to the politics involved here. I find it shocking when you’re dealing with the children.”

In parallel with the strike, which was set to run one day for each school district through Thursday, the province said it planned to start cutting teachers’ pay by 10 per cent.

Iker said another round of job action could take place next week if the conflict was not resolved swiftly, but union members would take a vote before advancing to stage three action.

While more than 40,000 teachers take turns being off the job, unionized school support staff said they’d honour the lines.

Iker conceded the BCTF was leaving it up to members to decide whether or to take part in extracurricular activities.

There’s been plenty of confusion whether events and activities would be cancelled with several letters passing between the employers association and the union over recent days setting out particular rules. Fassbender said he wanted to correct the misinformation, explaining that any teacher at any activity will be covered by workers’ compensation provisions.

BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair also joined teachers on the lines, and said the broader, provincial labour movement supports the union in a goal for long-term labour peace.

“The labour movement will not support back to work legislation ordering teachers back to work,” he said. “If they try the other way then they’re going to be dealing with the entire labour movement.”

The sticking points in the dispute are pay, class size and classroom support.

On Sunday, Peter Cameron, the government’s lead negotiator, said the province is offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years; Iker said teachers want 13.7 per cent over four years.

Cameron, who represents the BC Public School Employers’ Association, said teachers’ demands would cost each taxpayer roughly $1,100.

In April, teachers stopped supervising students outside the classroom or communicating in writing with administrators.

The government offered to cut its initial 10-year contract proposal to six years while offering a $1,200 signing bonus.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two overdose deaths in Nelson over the weekend

Police warn that much of the current drug supply in the city may be dangerous

Cottonwood Lake Society announces $15,000 in new funding

The Nelson Rod and Gun Club and Royal Bank of Canada have chipped in

Nelson and RDCK both eyeing waste wood to produce energy

Nelson’s five-year-old business plan will resurface at council table this summer

Investigation ongoing into death of Warfield woman

West Kootenay Traffic Services and BC Coroners Service working on the case

Castlegar students say thanks to local RCMP

Robson Community School students show up for RCMP Appreciation Day

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

Most Read