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BCTF strike action starts Wednesday

B.C. Teachers
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – After rejecting an offer from the school district bargaining agency for a long-term contract, the B.C. Teachers' Federation has served notice it will begin work-to-rule action April 23.

BCTF president Jim Iker announced Thursday that 72-hour notice has been given, after union members voted 89 per cent in March to endorse a three-stage strike plan. Phase one includes refusing communication with school managers, arriving no more than an hour before and leaving an hour after school hours, and refusing supervision of students outside class time.

It does not affect pre-arranged voluntary activities such as coaching, but the refusal of supervision requires essential service levels that compel some teachers to assure the safety of students while they are out of classes. Report card preparation and parent meetings will continue.

Iker said progress at the bargaining table will determine how long phase one action would last.

Phase two of the BCTF plan is rotating one-day walkouts in districts around the province. Phase three, a full-scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.

The BCTF has rejected the government's offer for a 10-year agreement with pay increases totalling 6.5% over the first six years and additional wage increases to be negotiated for the final four years.

There has been little change to the "lowball offer" on wages and no movement on the long-running dispute over class size limits and special needs support, Iker said.

BCTF negotiators countered with a three-year proposal with three per cent plus a cost-of-living increase in each year. With compounding and current estimates of inflation, BCPSEA calculates that could amount to 13.5 per cent over three years.

Iker said school districts are cutting staff and programs due to ministry budget cuts, and the ministry should at least cover school districts' costs for increase medical services plan premiums and BC Hydro rate increases.

The education ministry says per-pupil funding has increased 38 per cent since 2001, and the ministry has provided $225 million over three years to hire 500 teachers and 400 new special education assistants for the 2012-13 school year.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for B.C.'s 60 school districts, said once stage one strike action begins, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association will seek an order that the union pay for its extended benefits during any withdrawal of service. That would cost about $5 million a month for 41,000 public school teachers.

"In order that there is in fact pressure on both sides, BCPSEA needs to respond to any phase one activities with measures that put corresponding pressure on the union," Cameron wrote in a letter to Iker.

 

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