Teachers start rotating strikes

Positions are explained as the government and the BCTF fail to come to an agreement - schools will be closed on a rotating basis.

Teachers across the province will begin rotating strikes on Monday as part of stage two of job action. Local teachers will man the picket lines in front of schools on May 28.

“Last week, teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA (B.C. Public School Employee’s Association, the bargaining agent for the government) put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,” said B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker in a press release. “But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts and attempt to divide teachers, parents and students.”

School District 51 (SD51) issued a press release on their website stating: During a Rotating Strike Day in SD51; schools will be closed, buses will not run and parents are asked to keep their children at home. In the event of increased or changed strike activity, including a full strike, further information will be provided through the school district website, sd51.bc.ca, and on the district Facebook page. Your school principal will also be able to give you updated information.

Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association, said the rotating strikes are part of the plan which the BCTF voted on at the end of January.

“Our number one priority is to come up with a negotiated agreement at the table,” he said. “Barring progress at the table this job action plan would be put into place.”

The rotating strikes are on the heels of a month of limited job action in stage one.

“We hoped that would put enough pressure on the bargaining table to achieve a deal at the table and it didn’t,” he said. “Finally last Thursday the minister came out and said they’d back off from 10 years to six years (for contract length).”

Sabourin said the government hasn’t dealt with any class size or composition issues or other concessions.

The government also offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers were to sign by the end of June. “There’s very little money on the table,” he said. “Six and a half per cent over six years isn’t even equal to what the other public sector unions got.”

Sabourin said the BCTF was contemplating the next step to take when, on Friday, the government, “swung the big stick.”

“Instead of going after the BCTF to cover the employer benefit costs, the minister decided he would go after individual teachers at 5-10 per cent of their salary if a deal isn’t signed,” said Sabourin.

“It’s really, really unreasonable. It doesn’t sound like they’re bargaining in good faith. It seems like they’re trying to provoke a strike like they did two years ago.”

Sabourin said it looks like B.C. teachers would continue with rotating strikes through the rest of the year unless a deal is made or real progress was being made toward making a deal.