BCTF president Jim Iker visits Matthew McNair Secondary in Richmond

BCTF president Jim Iker visits Matthew McNair Secondary in Richmond

B.C. teachers hold vote on full-scale strike

B.C. teachers will vote over full-scale strike with no end to dispute in sight

  • Jun. 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – As British Columbia’s unionized teachers began voting Monday on whether to amplify their job action, the province’s education minister pointed to their support staff counterparts as proof bargaining can achieve labour peace.

More than 40,000 members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation were being asked to support a strong mandate for a full strike as a pressure tactic to get a new collective agreement.

The unions representing 34,000 education support staff came to a tentative deal with the province over the weekend after just five days of bargaining.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said it was another example of a union taking what the government is willing to offer.

“My hope is that this could send a signal to the BCTF,” Fassbender told reporters. “This financial agreement is in line with the other public sector unions.”

The earliest date that all schools could be shut down is June 16 after the employer gets the required three days’ notice of a full walkout.

The vote comes at a time when the union’s strike pay account is so depleted it can’t pay each teacher $50 a day to walk the picket line and the B.C. government is asking the provincial labour board to declare tests for senior grades to be made essential.

Local union chapters were organizing the ballot, with the union planning to announce results Tuesday night.

“The higher the turnout and the higher the Yes vote, the more pressure it puts on the government to bring resources to the table,” said a BCTF memo available online to members last week.

The memo said the economic benefits of a “good settlement” will have a positive long-term effect for members, in spite of salary losses due to job action. Even a one per cent increase for a new teacher will amount to a $15,000 salary boost over a 30-year career, it said.

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2013. Wages and classroom conditions are the major issues.

For every day teachers are on the picket line, the government saves $12 million and another $4.5 million for support staff, according to the Education Ministry.

The union wants a wage hike in the range of 12 per cent over four years, while the government contends that spikes to more than 19 per cent when compounded, and including benefits.

The employer has offered 7.3 per cent over six years plus a $1,200 signing bonus if a deal is reached by the end of the school year.

Vancouver teacher Aeryn Williams said she supports her union.

“I feel like we should be playing hardball because the government isn’t putting students first,” said the Grades 2 and 3 teacher.

But as teachers consider a full walkout, their co-workers under CUPE and other unions agreed to a 5.5 per cent wage increase over the five-year contract.

The agreement reached on Saturday by the Canadian union of Public Employees and eight other unions representing support staff still needs to be ratified and covers workers including school secretaries, caretakers and bus drivers.

The fact that CUPE has reached a deal as the BCTF remains deadlocked hasn’t changed the unions’ commitment to support teachers, said B.C. chapter president Mark Hancock.

“Just as the teachers have been at our side as our members have fought for public education, we continue to stand with them,” he said in a statement.

Fassbender said there’s a difference between the two unions’ negotiation strategy: “A willingness to sit in the room and bargain realistically on all the elements.”

Support staff will not be punished for refusing to cross BCTF picket lines and they will be compensated for lost wages, the minister said.

Teachers started limited job action on April 23, pulling back some limited duties.

On May 26, a second stage meant rotating strikes closed each school one day per week. A third week of similar strikes begins Tuesday, with districts shutting down schools until Friday.

The employer locked out teachers in conjunction with the rotating strikes and the B.C. Labour Relations Board subsequently ruled it was within its rights to chop teachers’ pay by 10 per cent.

The employer has also asked the tribunal to designate the marking of exams for Grades 10 to 12 as essential, although a hearing hasn’t yet been set.

Negotiators are scheduled to continue bargaining through to Thursday.

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Emergency crews are at the scene of a serious accident on Sooke Road. (Sooke News Mirror)
Accident closes Sooke Road

Emergency crews on scene of three-vehicle accident

The Victoria Police Department is seeking information on an assault that occurred in downtown Victoria on May 10. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police investigating downtown Victoria assault on youth

Witness also attacked after trying to intervene

Reigning women’s World Champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who also took bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, will debut two brand new programs for the 2021 Stars On Ice tour, in Victoria May 15. (File photo)
Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko hit the ice when Stars returns to Victoria

The star-studded lineup is makes a return after pandemic hiatus

Ryan Cootes, Erin Bremner-Mitchell, Bill Collins and Mike Williamson of Cascadia Seaweed Corporation are here seen holding up seaweed grown in Barkley Sound in July 2020. The Sidney-based company has organized the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival running May 17 to May 23. (Cascadia Seaweed Corporation/Submitted)
Global expert touts seaweed to open inaugural Sidney festival

Vincent Doumeizel also points to barrier facing the emerging industry

Local cyclist Max McCulloch catches air off a jump in the newly redesigned Organ Donor trail at Mount Work mountain biking park. The Capital Regional District approved its regional parks mountain biking guidelines and a list of short-term actions at the CRD board’s May 12 meeting. (Black Press Media File Photo)
CRD approves mountain biking guidelines that drove spoke between advocates, environmentalists

Guidelines aim to find new biking opportunites in region, while protecting park ecology

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The Nanaimo Timbermen and Victoria Shamrocks compete in Western Lacrosse Association action in Nanaimo during the 2019 season. (News Bulletin file photo)
WLA cancels another senior A lacrosse season due to COVID-19

Western Lacrosse Association, Major Series Lacrosse announce cancellation of Mann Cup

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Most Read