Burnaby teachers set to stage one-day strike May 29

Burnaby school board vice-chair Ron Burton -
Burnaby school board vice-chair Ron Burton
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Burnaby teachers are set to stage a one-day strike on Thursday, May 29 as part of rotating strikes provincewide.

The move was the B.C. Teachers' Federation's (BCTF) response to the provincial government's announcement it would cut teacher wages by five per cent or more. That threat was itself in response to the first phase of strike action, in which teachers are working-to-rule, refusing supervision duties outside classrooms and communicating with administrators.

Groups of school districts will take turns staging the one-day strikes.

On May 29, "schools are closed and we're asking parents to find alternatives for their kids, not to bring them to school," said Burnaby school board vice-chair Ron Burton. "Schools will be open on the Friday."

On Tuesday, the district was still waiting to hear from Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 379 and BCTF whether they would allow childcare facilities located in schools to operate.

"It's unfortunate it had to go like this," Burton said. "We're just hoping for a quick resolution with as little disruption as possible."

The BCTF is required to give at least 48 hours notice before taking strike action.

Last week, the government backed off on its insistence on a 10-year contract, offering a six-year term with a $1,200 signing bonus. That was soon followed by the threat of wage rollbacks.

Burnaby Teachers Association president James Sanyshyn said teachers plan to set up pickets from early in the morning until at least 4 p.m. at most K-12 schools as well as adult education sites in the early evening.

"We understand that CUPE will be honouring our pickets. Our goal is to also make sure there are picket lines at the sites where CUPE workers are located at as well."

The childcare situation is "a complex" one and will largely depend on whether CUPE local 379 members would be required to work at the site, Sanyshyn said.

"It's frustrating. [Education Minister Peter Fassbender] speaks out of two sides of his face. He says there are no threats and yet he's threatening to cut teacher pay between five and 10 per cent," he said.

"If they really wanted to get a deal, they wouldn't be talking about threats. They'd be talking about impediments to getting a deal … They haven't done that to this point, other than moving from 10 years to six years."

Sanyshyn noted that the union has moved from a three year term to a willingness to accept four years.

"We're now actually, in terms of that, only two years apart … Obviously the logical place to go is for both sides to say, 'well, can we deal with five?'"

He was hopeful that with bargaining set to resume Thursday and Friday, that the two sides would soon agree on a term and then start settling salary and other issues.

As for the threat of rolling back wages, Sanyshyn said the BCTF plans to take that to the Labour Relations Board which turned down a similar plan by the province two years ago.

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