Rotating teacher strikes set to begin next weekMay 20, 2014
B.C. teachers will begin rotating strikes next week, resulting in a one-day shutdown for every public school in the province, their union announced Tuesday.
“This decision was not taken lightly,” Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), said about the plan to initiate Stage 2 of a strike plan. A limited Stage 1 job action began in April.
On Monday (May 26), schools in 16 districts will be behind picket lines: Southeast Kootenay, Rocky Mountain, Quesnel, Vancouver, New Westminster, Sea to Sky, Central Coast, Peace River South, Sooke, Okanagan Skaha, Campbell River, Gold Trail, Mission, Fraser-Cascade, Vancouver Island North and Stikine.
On Tuesday, those schools will re-open but another group of school districts will be targeted: Arrow Lakes, Revelstoke, Kootenay-Columbia, Central Okanagan, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Langley, Richmond, Maple Ridge, Prince Rupert, Bulkley Valley, Saanich, Nanaimo, Alberni, Fort Nelson and North Okanagan-Shuswap.
On Wednesday, schools hit will be in Abbotsford, Delta, Coquitlam, Powell River, Haida Gwaii, Boundary, Okanagan Similkameen, Peace River North, Greater Victoria, Qualicum, Kamloops Thompson, Vancouver Island West, Nechako Lakes and Nisga’a.
On Thursday, it will be Kootenay Lake, Vernon, Chilliwack, Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Prince George, Nicola Similkameen, Gulf Islands, Comox, Cowichan Valley and Coast Mountains.
Francophone schools, which are scattered across the province, will be closed at the same time as others in their local communities. On Friday, all schools are expected to be open.
Bargaining for a new collective agreement began more than a year ago the two sides remain far apart on key issues. The government’s announcement last Thursday that it would settle for a six-year contract rather than a 10-year deal – a move Iker described as an olive branch – gave teachers hope.
But that was dashed the next day when the government announced “a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts and attempts to divide teachers, parents and students,” he added.
Iker didn’t indicate what might happen in June, saying it depends on developments at the bargaining table. He appealed to Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender to change their approach and encourage a negotiated settlement before next Monday.
Fassbender replied that he was disappointed with the union’s decision and denied that the government issued threats. “The reality is that in bargaining there are commiserate pressures that either party puts on in order to try and move toward a negotiated settlement. That’s nothing new,” he’s quoted as saying in the Vancouver Sun.
In a statement issued after the BCTF announcement, Vancouver superintendent Steve Cardwell said the strike Monday will have a significant impact. “While schools will remain open on Monday and staffed by our administrators, we will not be able to offer our regular instruction on May 26 as we do not anticipate that unionized staff will cross the picket lines.
“As a result, we are encouraging parents to not send their children to school on Monday, May 26, and to seek alternate childcare arrangements as needed. We anticipate that schools will be back in session on Tuesday, May 27.
“The safety and security of our students is our highest priority. Should any students arrive at school while picket lines are in place, our school administrators will ensure that they are cared for until they can be safely returned to their homes under the supervision of a parent or guardian. At this point, we are not aware of other days when Vancouver public schools will be placed behind picket lines. However, we understand that this rotating strike action might occur again. We will continue to keep you informed as additional information becomes available.”
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and information presented here does not represent the views of the organization.