UPDATE The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced today (June 12) that schools across the Boundary and across the province would go to a full withdrawal of services.
The BCTF also stated that teachers would not be at school on Monday, although they would not be picketing schools. All schools in the Boundary will be closed on Monday.
In a statement released today, superintendent Kevin Argue said that provincial exams will start Wednesday, June 18 at GFSS and Friday, June 20 at BCSS.
“As bargaining is continuing, there is potential for this to change so please check with the school district website at www.sd51.bc.ca or your school website for the most current information,” he said.
BCTF press release:
Following a historic and decisive province-wide 86% vote that saw the BCTF’s highest ever turnout, the BC Teachers’ Federation has served notice to escalate job action on Tuesday, June 17 to a full withdrawal of services, BCTF President Jim Iker announced today.
“This week’s vote made it clear that BC teachers care deeply about the state of public education and their ability to meet the needs of all their students,” said Iker. “As well, it showed how firmly teachers are committed to doing what’s necessary to reach a fair deal.
“After 12 years of deep cuts, 3,500 teaching positions lost, and 200 schools closed, we are urging this government to reinvest in public education. Teachers are doing their utmost in an underfunded and under-resourced system, but students are not getting the support or one-on-one time they need. Our kids deserve so much more.
“There are still several days left, during which both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike, and end the government’s lockout. We’re ready to move, but my message to Christy Clark is, come to the table with new funding, an open mind, and the flexibility needed to reach a fair settlement that will support teachers and students.”
Iker explained that the BCTF has provided the employer with notice that the full withdrawal of services will commence on Tuesday, June 17. In addition, the BCTF has provided notice that Stage 2 job action will be extended to Monday, June 16, with all teachers participating in study sessions province-wide. Teachers will gather together off school property. Schools will not be picketed, but teachers will not be on site.
For the balance of this week, rotating strikes will continue according to the schedule announced earlier. Teachers remain locked out by their employer during recess, lunch, and 45 minutes before and after school, preventing them from doing their regular work during lockout hours.
“To get a fair deal and avert a full-scale strike, BC teachers are looking for improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers to increase one-on-one time for students,” said Iker. “In addition to improvements to student learning conditions, a fair deal must also include a fair wage increase for teachers.”
Students in Grand Forks and throughout B.C. could be in for an early vacation this year, whether they want it or not.
Teachers across the province voted on Monday and Tuesday on whether to go to a full strike. The teachers voted 86 per cent in favour of going on a full blown strike. In all, 33,387 teachers cast ballots.
The full strike would be the latest in a series of escalating tactics used by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) to apply pressure to the government to get a new and improved collective bargaining agreement.
“Ultimately, we’re hoping a strong strike vote itself will be enough to put pressure on the bargaining table to get a deal done,” said Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association. “We still don’t want to escalate this any further. We feel like we’re being pushed into a corner. If the government is unwilling to bargain in good faith—escalation is where we may have to go.”
The vote comes just after the government came to a tentative deal with the education support staff which belong to CUPE.
Teachers in the Boundary (SD51) will strike next on Friday, June 13 as part of rotating strike action.
Although, there is no school on Friday, the strike is meant to allow local teachers the opportunity to make up for lost pay since they only work four days in a week as opposed to the five that most school districts in B.C. do.
“Given that we’re on the four day week—every day our teachers are on strike we are deducted in the neighbourhood of 1.25 days of work,” said Sabourin. “We’re deducted much more than one full day compared to teachers across the province.”
Sabourin said SD51 teachers will not be picketing schools on Friday, but he says they are planning for a rally in Grand Forks.
The teachers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Boundary Teachers’ Association office by Flexus Gym for some general information. They will then head down to Perley Elementary School at around 11 a.m. for a rally on the lawn.
“There will be some speeches,” said Sabourin. “We’ll have a rally there. We’re not picketing. We’re not blocking anyone from working.”
Sabourin said the rally is open to any concerned citizens who want to come out and show support for the teachers and public education.
The graduations at Grand Forks Secondary on Friday, and Boundary Central Secondary on Saturday, are not expected to be affected by the strike action.
Both high school principals have made contingency plans for having grad without the teachers’ participation, said Kevin Argue, superintendent for SD51.
“Advice has been given to teachers that they shouldn’t be participating in the event itself,” said Sabourin. “If teachers want to just sit in the audience and observe, the union is not stopping them.”
Sabourin said that if the BCTF goes to a full scale strike, teachers would not grade final exams or give final grades.
“The union stance would be that if we are on strike we do not work and if we’re not working we can’t do finals, we can’t do report cards, we can’t do any of that,” said Sabourin. “If we’re on strike or lock out— we do not work. Once that happens, we do not make up struck work.”
Sabourin said the BCTF is hoping the strike vote will put enough pressure on the government to get a deal done.
“We’re hoping this will be enough pressure on the government for them to determine they really want final exams to happen, they want report cards to happen, they want all the year end activities to happen; therefore, they really need to come to the table and bargain in good faith and that won’t happen,” he said.
Education minister Peter Fassbender has stated that the government intends to ensure that all students in grade 10-12 will have their final exams graded.
In a press release, Fassbender stated: “While we are disappointed with the BCTF’s plans to escalate to a full walk-out, this in no way changes our resolve to get an agreement by the end of June.”
He added that, “A full strike is only going to keep more students out of their classrooms, create more disruptions for parents, while teachers and support workers caught in the middle will lose even more in wages. There is no bottomless pit of money, and the rotating strikes are certainly not going to help teachers and support workers pocketbooks.”