by Tom Fletcher
Gold Trail teachers are scheduled to take part in province-wide rotating strikes on Mon., May 26
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation plans to start one-day rotating strikes at schools around the province on Monday, rejecting the offer of a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.
BCTF president Jim Iker said Tuesday the bonus doesn’t make up for the government’s wage offer of 6.5 per cent over six years. A simultaneous threat to cut teacher wages five per cent or more because of strike action is “just so disrespectful, so unnecessary, and we’ll be dealing with it at the Labour Relations Board,” Iker said.
Unless there is some compromise on major issues, one-day strikes with picket lines will be staged at one group of school districts in each of the first four days next week, with teachers returning to work across the province on Friday, May 30.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the signing bonus and reducing the contract term from 10 years to six were significant efforts to move toward a settlement.
“Unfortunately the announcement today says that the BCTF feels that disrupting classrooms, affecting children and their families is going to help to reach a settlement,” Fassbender told reporters in Vancouver.
Iker reiterated the union’s position that more pay, more teachers and a return to contract language guaranteeing class size and special needs support are needed to reach a settlement.
Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province’s 60 school districts, informed the union last week that a five per cent pay cut will be put in place “soon” in response to the first phase of strike action.
The BCTF began work-to-rule action in April, refusing supervision outside classrooms and communication with school management. Rotating strikes were also authorized by the BCTF membership in a March vote, and beginning to shut down schools could result in an effort to cut teacher pay by 10 per cent.
Cameron said last week the union’s latest wage demand amounts to 15.9 per cent over four years, far beyond what other provincial public service unions have received. The BCTF maintains its wage proposal is 13.25 per cent over four years, including cost-of-living increases based on each year’s inflation rate.