Revelstoke teachers will be back on strike this Friday, June 12, and possibly longer depending on the result of a strike vote being held today and tomorrow.
The BC Teachers Federation continued its rotating strikes last week, while the war of words between the union and the provincial government continued.
Last Wednesday, June 4, the Labour Relations Board upheld the government’s decision to cut pay by 10 per cent in response to the strikes and the teachers’ refusal to perform some duties outside classroom house.
B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said the pay cut and partial lockout of members is “a punitive action” that is unfair to teachers performing their essential classroom duties.
In response, the BCTF was set to hold another vote June 9-10 to authorize full-scale strike action. Rotating strikes are to continue next week while the strike vote is held and counted.
“If approved, this would likely mean a full-scale strike within the next two weeks,” Iker said.
LRB vice-chair Richard Longpre dismissed the B.C. Teachers’ Federation appeal of the partial lockout of teachers in a decision released Wednesday afternoon. He said the two sides are free to seek a third-party resolution of the dispute.
Iker said the union is taking legal advice on the LRB decision and may pursue arbitration.
Meanwhile, the province wants the completion of secondary school exams and reports cards to be declared an essential service. The application to extend essential services and avoid “serious and immediate damage” to students was filed Friday with the Labour Relations Board by the B.C. Public School Employers Association.
The proposed widening of the existing essential services order so Grade 10 to 12 students can finish the school year and get their final grades would only apply if the B.C. Teachers Federation escalates to a full strike from one-day-a-week rotating strikes in each district.
The application says failure to deliver final grades would leave graduating students ineligible for scholarships and potentially unable to apply to post-secondary institutions or employers.
“Depriving Grade 12 students of post-secondary opportunities which may not be replaceable would clearly threaten the welfare of these students.”
Grade 10 and 11 grades are also needed for access to bursaries or scholarships and appropriate placement in the next year’s classes, it said.
At the bargaining table, the BCTF has reduced its pay increase proposal by one per cent over four years and offered other concessions in a move to end the stalemate.
In an email to union members Tuesday night, the BCTF executive said the offer “adjusted the Federation’s package in seven areas, including salary, benefits, preparation time and [substitute teacher] compensation.”
The new BCTF wage proposal is a total increase of 9.75% over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments in each year depending on inflation. BCTF president Jim Iker has estimated that with inflation, the total increase would be 12.75% over four years.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, representing the province’s 60 school districts, has proposed a 7.5% increase over six years, and recently added a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.
BCPSEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron has described the employers’ wage proposal as in line with other public sector union agreements already reached.
The two sides remain bitterly divided over class size and special needs support staff, the subject of repeated court actions since those provisions were removed from the teacher contract in 2002.
Premier Christy Clark, questioned by Black Press in Pitt Meadows Friday, said she first wants a settlement on wage increases for teachers ahead of further consideration of changes to class size and composition.
“Teachers deserve a raise too,” Clark said. “I think we can get there. But we have to decide we’re going to roll up our sleeves, be serious about bargaining and decide that there is a will to get this done without putting kids in the middle of the fight.”
With reporting from Tom Fletcher, Jeff Nagel, and Monisha Martins