In a pair of dueling press conferences this afternoon Premier Christy Clark and BCTF’s Jim Iker offered separate but equally grim updates on the ongoing teachers’ strike. Iker, however, fact checked Clark on the claims teachers are holding out for a whole lot of massages.
Clark addressed the media Wednesday afternoon, calling for teachers to suspend their strike and return to the classroom while the government and the union hammer out a deal.
Unwilling to speculate on how long her government was willing to let the stalemate drag on, Clark said until teachers are willing to yield on their demands, the two parties were not going to be able to address the core issues of class size and composition.
“For heaven’s sakes, 150,000 other public sector employees who work just as hard have settled for far less,” said Clark. “They didn’t get a $5,000 signing bonus, they didn’t get unlimited massage, they didn’t get an extra day off every year. It needs to be realistic, it needs to be in-line with what we’ve done with other public sector unions.”
Unfortunately, Clark was speaking using inaccurate and outdated details from the teachers’ demands. In his rebuttal press conference a couple of hours later, the BCTF’s Jim Iker again called out the government for letting the bargaining languish over the summer, and took Clark to task for perpetuating misinformation about the demands, in particular the massages and the days off.
Iker clarified that in an early proposal, the teachers sought $3,000 in benefits for certain teachers with chronic pain conditions to use for massage therapy, but that when last the BCTF and the Minister of Education met, that proposal was “sold” so that all the teachers could get a better deal. Iker said the current benefit package includes $500 for massage therapy, and that their proposal is for a modest increase to $700.
Further, Iker said at no time were they seeking additional days off for instructors, but that secondary school teachers were asking for additional two prep days.
When asked how long Iker would be willing to let his union members remain on strike–some, as one reporter pointed out, with just $6 left in their bank account–the BCTF head said he cannot deny the financial struggles some members are facing, but that all teachers want is a deal so they can return to the classroom. Further, Iker pointed out the teachers are still in a lockout.
Iker says they will not suspend the strike without a deal. He called on Clark once again to meet with BCTF, and for the province to focus on spending on education. “If they can build a roof on BC Place for $500 million, we can afford to invest in our children,” he said.
Featured image: Teachers picketing outside a school in Kamloops, BC, August 25, 2014 (@JessicaleppNL/Twitter)