Teachers serve job action notice

Teachers will be holding stage one job action starting today (Wednesday) in Grand Forks and throughout the province.

Teachers will be holding stage one job action starting today (Wednesday) in Grand Forks and throughout the province. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) gave three-day strike notice on Thursday.In a press release, BCTF president Jim Iker said the job action was “in response to disappointing progress at the negotiating table where the Christy Clark government and employer’s association have not backed off from unfair and unreasonable demands.”BCTF members voted 89 per cent in March to endorse potential job action. “We really hoped we could work this out,” Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association, told the Gazette. “The bargaining team and the executive made a decision that this was a problem.” Phase one includes: not undertaking any mandated supervision of students outside of regularly scheduled classes, except as set out by an essential services order; attend any meetings with management; provide principals or administration with any printed, written or electronic communication; or receive any printed, written, or electronic communication from an administrator.At this point report cards will not be affected. “Despite our patience and our measured approach in bargaining, Christy Clark and her government are once again trying to provoke B.C. teachers and shut down B.C. schools,” continued Iker in the press release. “Job action, even low-level action, is always a last resort because teachers care deeply about our schools and our students. That is why teachers are asking for smaller classes, more one-on-one time for our students, extra help for those who need it, and more specialist teachers to enhance every student’s educational experience.”Iker also explained that any escalation of stage one to stage two, which would mean rotating strikes, will depend entirely on progress at the negotiating table. “Teachers expect the government to abandon the ill-conceived 10-year scheme, make improvements to working and learning conditions like class size, class composition, and specialist staffing levels as well as offer a fair and reasonable salary increase. Our hope is for a negotiated deal at the bargaining table and not escalating job action,” said Iker. Sabourin said that as long as the government is willing to negotiate, there would be no further job action.“If we could get a deal signed we would pull back and go back to normal,” he said. “We’ve been patient and waited and waited. We’re hoping this will be it. We don’t want it to go any further. We want a deal signed at the table.”Stage two of the BCTF plan would likely entail rotating one-day walkouts in districts across the province. Stage three, a full-scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.In response to the BCTF job action, education minister Peter Fassbender issued a press release on Thursday stating, “It’s a little disappointing but not at all surprising. Over the past few weeks, it appears the BCTF has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table.“There has been virtually no movement from the BCTF on their wage and contract positions,” he continued. “The union hasn’t moved off its opening position of approximately 13.5 per cent increase over three years, nor has it withdrawn any of its many other monetary proposals.”Fassbender added that now that the BCTF has initiated their strike plan, BCPSEA (B.C. Public School Employee’s Association – the group which bargains for the government) hopes they will turn their attention to “some real bargaining.”He said nobody wants a repeat of the six-month job action of a few years ago.“That situation only served to prolong the dispute, to the detriment of students, parents and all public school employees,” said Fassbender. “We hope both sides will be equally motivated to find solutions at the table, rather than letting the BCTF’s strike drift on indefinitely.”