Teachers have overwhelmingly voted for a full-scale strike that could begin as early as Monday, June 16.
BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said a record turnout of 33,387 of the province’s 40,000+ teachers submitted their ballots over a two-day period beginning Monday. 28,809 teachers or 86 per cent voted in favour of escalating strike levels to their maximum level while 4,578 teachers or 14 per cent voted against the strike.
This comes after the union told its members that it has insufficient ‘war chest’ funds for providing teachers with strike pay during a prolonged strike.
Although the vast majority of teachers have provided the BCTF with a full-strike mandate, there are no plans for such action at this time. Iker says that rotating strikes will continue for the time being and negotiations will resume in an effort to prevent a full-scale strike.
The BCTF is required to provide parents and their employers with three working days’ full-strike notice.
A strike that begins next week could lead to an early end to the school year, although the provincial government has vowed that Grade 10 to 12 students will complete their exams and receive their grades. It has applied to the Labour Relations Board to declare exams and report cards an ‘essential service’.
The vote comes after last week’s Labour Relations Board ruling that sided with the provincial government’s right to slash salaries by 10 per cent beginning May 26.
The BCTF has asked provincial taxpayers to fund a wage hike of 9.75 per cent over a period of four years, down from a previous request of 10.75 per cent, with less benefits than first proposed.
However, the provincial government rejected the numbers, saying it was far from a compromise given that the compounded pay increase over four years still amounts to an 14.7 per cent – a marginal reduction from the original proposal of 15.9 per cent.
The provincial government’s last known offer was 7.25 per cent over a period of six years, including a $1,200 signing bonus and cost of living increase.
Aside from a pay increase, the BCTF is also asking the provincial government to address its concerns with issues such as class sizes and class composition. Earlier this year, the B.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling that stated the provincial government’s legislation to remove the right to bargain for class sizes was unconstitutional.
Teachers began job action on April 23, which reduced responsibilities such as recess and supervision outside of class time at some school districts. Rotating strikes, the cancelation of one school day per week at school districts, began on May 26.
The last time teachers went on a full-scale strike was in October 2005 over a period of two weeks.