The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is threatening a full-scale teachers’ strike after today’s Labour Relations Board ruling that sided with the provincial government’s right to cut 10 per cent of teachers’ salaries beginning May 26 – a decision made in response to their strike and perform less duties.
The province’s 40,000 teachers will vote on a full-scale strike mandate on June 9 and June 10, and if approved job action could escalate into full school closures as early as June 16. Besides the full cancellation of instructional time and field trips, Grade 12 students also face the risk of not having graduation, final exams and their grades submitted in time for college and university admission.
“We decided last night that the time has come to apply even more pressure to the negotiating table to get a fair deal and better support for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. “We hope that the vote in itself will apply pressure to both sides and hopefully spur the movement needed from the employer that will help us reach a deal.”
The teachers’ union is required to provide parents and their employer three working days’ notice of a full-scale strike.
On Tuesday, the BCTF tabled a proposal asking provincial taxpayers to fund a wage hike of 9.75 per cent over four years, down from 10.75 per cent, with less benefits than first proposed. However, the provincial government’s negotiators refused, saying it was insufficient given that the compounded pay increase over four years still amounts to an extraordinary 14.7 per cent – a reduction from the original ask of 15.9 per cent.
The provincial government’s last offer was 7.25 per cent over a period of six years, including a $1,200 signing bonus and cost of living increase.
B.C. teachers have been bitterly confronting the provincial government, asking for smaller class sizes while also demanding a pay increase. Last year, the union rejected the provincial government’s idea of a 10-year contract that would have ensured schooling stability for students.
The last time teachers went on a full strike was in October 2005 over a period of two weeks.
Teachers will continue their rotating strikes next week.
Some of the province’s students decided to skip classes today to deliver their own message of not wanting to be caught in the middle of the BCTF and provincial government fight.
On a Facebook event page that garnered nearly 14,000 ‘confirmed’ attendees, students lamented their situation and took different positions on the ongoing dispute.
However, only a small fraction of the confirmed number decided to walk out. Students shared on social media that they were threatened with detentions and suspensions by their teachers and principal, while those that defended the actions cited legal and liability reasons.
Many shared the sentiment that it was “stupid to cut class time to protest against the cutting of class time” while others simply wanted to get the most out of their remaining instructional time before the semester ends.
— Jacqueline B (@JacqSparrow) June 4, 2014
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— Nancy GriffithZahner (@radmocile) June 4, 2014
— Nancy GriffithZahner (@radmocile) May 27, 2014
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Featured Image: Aisha French via Facebook