Revelstoke’s schools will remain open but parents are being asked to keep their children at home when the teachers go on strike for three days next week, said district superintendent Anne Cooper.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation served notice Thursday morning that teachers will be going on strike on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week. As a result, there will be no teaching but principals, vice-principals and support staff will be at work to provide supervision, said Cooper.
Still, she is asking parents to keep their children at home because supervision will be limited. There will also be no school buses running.
The BCTF was required to give two school days’ notice before being in a legal strike position, under a Labour Relations Board ruling on essential services. The ruling allows for up to three consecutive days of full strike action next week. The LRB ruling prohibits picket lines, allowing unionized support staff to go to work.
The teachers will be setting up “information lines” at each school, said Jennifer Wolney, the acting president of the Revelstoke Teachers’ Association.
The B.C. government began debate Thursday on legislation that would extend the current teacher pay and benefits for another six months, while a mediator works with the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association in an effort to find common ground on class sizes, special needs support and other issues. The legislation binds the mediator to the governments “net-zero” mandate for new public sector contracts – meaning the new contract can’t come with any new costs.
27,946 BCTF members voted yes to the strike option out of the 32,209 who voted Tuesday and Wednesday, after the B.C. government tabled legislation to impose a “cooling-off period” until the end of August and impose heavy fines on the union and its members for strikes during that time.
“Teachers take this step very reluctantly,” said Susan Lambert, the president of the BCTF, in a press release. “We articulated our objectives as clearly and respectfully as we could, but unfortunately we were pleading to deaf ears.
“The bill tabled on Tuesday was a sign of the appalling disrespect for the profession of teaching, for students, and for public education in B.C.”
Nearly 9,000 teachers did not vote, and more than 10 per cent or 4,263 voted against strike action.
B.C. education minister George Abbott and Premier Christy Clark would not specify how long the government would wait before passing that legislation. Clark said she wants to give the union time to “climb down from the cliff” after seven months of working to rule, refusing to complete report cards and other non-essential duties.
NDP leader Adrian Dix said he will oppose Bill-22 in the legislature. He called for “real mediation” but refused to say if he would support a raise for teachers.
BCTF president Susan Lambert has dismissed the legislation and restrictions on mediation to work within the government’s two-year “net zero” wage mandate as “bullying tactics.” She said an extra $30 million fund for special needs support this year, on top of more than $800 million currently budgeted, is a “crumb” that won’t even cover inflation.
“The results of our province-wide vote are strong evidence of the unity and determination of BCTF members in rejecting this government’s provocative and damaging legislation,” Lambert said.
Carmella Batke, the chair of the District Parent Advisory Committee said she hadn’t had any conversations with other parents about the strike vote yet when she was contacted Thursday morning.
“When we had the district PAC meeting last week, it wasn’t until after we met that there bigger rumours that it was coming out,” she said. “You just have to wait and see and go with what happens. Do I want my kids home from school? Not really but it’s not my choice, it’s not my decision.”
The Revelstoke Childcare Society will be providing care for students in kindergarten to grade four during the strike. Programs are being planned for school-aged children and care is available from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Contact the Revelstoke Child Care Society at 250-837-6669 for more information.
The following is a letter sent by Anne Cooper to parents.
As you may have heard, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has announced that its members will be withdrawing their services for three days commencing Monday, March 5th, 2012. As a result, teachers will not be reporting for duty on the following days:
• Monday, March 5th, 2012
• Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
• Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
While school facilities will remain open under the supervision of principals and viceprincipals, we will be unable to provide students with instruction or appropriate supervision during this period of job action. As a result, school buses will not be in operation.
For safety reasons, we are therefore requesting that parents keep their children at home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, March 5th, 6th and 7th, 2012.
We will do our utmost to keep you informed in a timely manner. The local online newspapers, local radio stations and television news will be good sources of information. We will update our website regularly, www.sd19.bc.ca.
We have a school system in Revelstoke, of which we are all very proud and I am confident that the strike will be addressed in a respectful manner throughout the district.
If you have questions, please contact your principal or myself. I thank you for your understanding.
Superintendent of Schools
With files from Tom Fletcher/Black Press