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BC teachers to begin rotating strikes on Monday, May 26

AS a result of the unwillingness of the provincial government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association to offer any improvements to class size, class composition, and other important learning conditions for students, as well as the employer’s unfair wage demands, teachers will begin rotating strikes on Monday, May 26, the BC Teachers’ Federation announced on Tuesday.

“Last week, teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. “But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts, and attempts to divide teachers, parents, and students.

“BC teachers began low-level job action to put pressure on government and BCPSEA to bring fair offers to the table. Unfortunately, the employer has steadfastly refused to table any improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers.  Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students’ learning conditions, in BC Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.”

The rotating strikes will begin on Monday, May 26 and continue May 27, 28, and 29. All school districts will be impacted on one of those days. All schools will be open on Friday, May 30. Any extension of the rotating job action will depend on events at the bargaining table.

The rotating closures are part of a two-stage strike plan voted on by teachers in March. During that vote, teachers gave their bargaining team an overwhelming mandate to begin low-level job action and then move to rotating strikes if meaningful progress was not made in negotiations. In all, 29,301 teachers cast ballots—89% voted in favour of the two-stage job action plan.

“Teachers do not take job action of any kind lightly,” said Iker. “As teachers, we care deeply about our students and their education, but with another round of brutal cuts looming, we need to act now. With BC funding education $1,000 per student less than the national average, British Columbians must take a strong stand and convince Christy Clark’s government to reinvest in our students. It is time for government to make education a funding priority.

“Teachers remain committed to reaching a fair deal at the negotiating table that respects our work and provides better support for our students. If this government is serious about labour peace they should offer teachers a fair deal and show some good faith. We will remain at the bargaining table. There are six days left before the first schools shut down. I encourage [Premier] Christy Clark and [Education Minister] Peter Fassbender to be in touch, move off their unreasonable demands, and empower BCPSEA to negotiate a fair deal.”

The planned schedule of school closures (by school district name) is as follows:

Monday, May 26: Vancouver, New Westminster

Tuesday, May 27: Langley, Richmond, Maple Ridge

Wednesday, May 28: Abbotsford, Delta, Coquitlam

Thursday May, 29: Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver

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