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School District 43 mulls impact of May 28 teacher job action

B.C.
B.C.'s teachers, including those in Coquitlam district (shown hear at a recent rally), plan rotating job action next week unless an agreement can be reached with the province on wages, class size and composition.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Parents in School District 43 will likely have to wait until the end of the week to find out how the teachers’ one-day walkout planned for next Wednesday will affect their children.

But the chair of the Tri-Cities’ board of education hopes the province and the BC Teachers’ Federation can solve their differences in time to avert what will likely be school closures locally on May 28.

“We are caught in the middle,” Melissa Hyndes told The Tri-City News yesterday in response to the BCTF’s announcement of plans for four days of rotating strikes across the province beginning Monday unless a deal can be reached at the bargaining table.

Hyndes, a Port Moody trustee, said she would wait until discussions with the district’s senior leadership team, and hearing from unionized support workers (CUPE Branch 561) before commenting fully on what the impact of the one-day walk out May 28 in SD43 will have on students. Hyndes also said she couldn’t comment on what the one-day strike savings will mean to the school district’s strained finances but she noted school administrators will still be on the job that day.

“We’ll make the best of the situation,” Hyndes said, adding that the board “would encourage both parties to continue to talk this week and hopefully we can alleviate the decision for rotating strikes B.C.”

Her concerns followed a press conference Tuesday at which BCTF president Jim Iker said the decision to move to stage two of job action was supported by a strong majority of teachers because of concerns about class size and composition and a desire for fair wages.

Iker said teachers rejected the province’s the offer of a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year because the bonus doesn’t make up for the government’s wage offer of 6.5% over six years. A simultaneous threat to cut teacher wages 5% or more because of strike action is “just so disrespectful, so unnecessary, and we’ll be dealing with it at the Labour Relations Board,” Iker said.

STRIKES TO ROTATE

Unless there is some compromise on major issues, one-day strikes with picket lines will be staged at one group of school districts in each of the first four days next week, with teachers returning to work across the province on Friday, May 30.

Iker reiterated the union’s position that more pay, more teachers and a return to contract language guaranteeing class size and special needs support are needed to reach a settlement.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province’s 60 school districts, informed the union last week that a 5% pay cut will be put in place “soon” in response to the first phase of strike action.

The BCTF began limited work-to-rule action in April, refusing supervision outside classrooms and communication with school management. Rotating strikes were also authorized by the BCTF membership in a March vote, and beginning to shut down schools could result in an effort to cut teacher pay by 10%.

Cameron said last week the union’s latest wage demand amounts to 15.9% over four years, far beyond what other provincial public service unions have received. The BCTF maintains its wage proposal is 13.25% over four years, including cost-of-living increases based on each year’s inflation rate.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

– with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press

 

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