B.C. teachers run out of cash as strike vote nears

Strike fund dry on eve of vote for full-scale walkout: B.C. teachers' union memo

  • Jun. 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – As British Columbia’s unionized teachers ponder whether to follow their leadership into a full-scale walkout, the union has admitted its war chest is empty and it won’t be able to dole out more strike pay.

The fund from which the union draws cash to subsidize teachers on the picket lines has been depleted and it can’t cover an escalating strike, states a memo on the union’s internal website.

The Collective Bargaining Defence Fund had enough money to finance up to three days of pay for rotating strikes, said the document that answers questions about the escalation vote. But it’s unable to cover additional strike days “that may well be necessary in order to achieve a collective agreement.”

Teachers will be paid $50 per day for rotating strikes, which have taken place one day per week for the past two weeks and are planned to carry forward through next week.

The teachers will be at work next Monday and rotating strikes will be held Tuesday through Friday.

“There is no doubt that the costs associated with continually fending off attacks on teacher rights and the collective agreement are high, but the cost of not doing so are far worse,” reads the memo dated June 4 and posted in the B.C. Teachers’ Federation internal website.

The prospect of a full-scale strike donned Wednesday, after the union announced it will ask teachers to support a withdrawal of all services in a vote this coming Monday and Tuesday. If a majority approves, the teachers are legally obligated to give three days notice.

A spokesman for the union wouldn’t provide further information about the pay situation, only saying the BCTF is in the process of informing its members ahead of the vote. Some other public-sector unions don’t pay their members until at least day four of a strike, he noted.

The memo explains the strike fund has been exhausted as a result of 12 years “defending teachers’ rights,” which has included court battles with the government over the removal of classroom size and composition provisions from the bargaining process.

Teachers were starting to feel the stress and become ill as the conflict intensified, said one teacher in Surrey, B.C., who asked to remain anonymous.

“Moral is not good,” he said, but added he expects a majority of teachers to vote for further job action.

Regardless of whether schools are shut, the education minister pledged on Thursday that final exams will be marked and grades will be distributed to all of B.C.’s graduating students.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday that the government will take “whatever steps” necessary to ensure critical studies are completed.

“The commitment, without any hesitation, is they will be able to finish their year, their exams, the marking of those exams — and that is not something that will be open to discussion,” he told reporters.

Details hadn’t yet been cemented, Fassbender said.

The union earlier this week reduced its wage demands to about 12 per cent over four years, according to a spokesman, while the employer has offered a 7.3 per cent hike over six years.

A government spokesman, however, said its own math on the union’s demand puts the proposal at 14.7 per cent when compounded, or closer to about 19 per cent when other compensation costs are factored in.

The contract expired one year ago.

The parties were engaging in bargaining talks again Thursday, and Fassbender said the government is in no rush to legislate teachers back to work.

Student Mati Cormier said she blames both sides for the conflict and doesn’t believe either is looking at the bigger picture.

“It’s really tough when everyone is saying we might have another strike,” said the 14 year old, who attends Ideal Mini School in Vancouver.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. I want consistency with school and education, I want to be able to learn without being scared of what’s going to happen next week.”

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

When crisis hits: How West Shore RCMP have dealt with the pandemic

More front-line officers on road in mobile offices

Sidney staff recommends additional outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes

Report before council also leaves open possibility of closing a portion of Beacon Avenue

French fries to juicy tomatoes, rock art brings joy to walkers in Victoria

James Bay yard filled with painted rocks delights all ages

‘Depression-era’ unemployment figures could hit Greater Victoria

South Island Prosperity Project launches new dashboard to measure effects of COVID-19

Langford bartender hosts singalong livestream for seniors

Live Senior Singalong takes place daily at 1 p.m. on Facebook

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read