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Teachers' strike action will close schools in Parksville Qualicum Beach on Wednesday

Responding to the Minister of Education's threat to roll wages back five per cent if they don't agree on a new deal, B.C. teachers will begin rotating strikes on Monday, with District 69 schools closed Wednesday, May 28.

"We were very optimistic last week," said Mount Arrowsmith Teachers' Association president Debbie Morran, explaining the province had come down from offering a 10-year term to six years and the BCTF moved up from three to four years. "Then the next day, the minister (of Education Peter Fassbender) threatens a five-per-cent cut and he threatens to lockout secondary teachers during grad — I don't know where he came up with such idiocy, I don't know who's pulling the strings."

"It's very unfortunate when he comes out in the media saying we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing when we're in a legal strike position approved by the Labour Relations Board," she said.

A news release from the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) said the decision to move to stage two of the 89 per cent strike vote by teachers last month is "a result of the unwillingness of the provincial government and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) 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."

On May 16, B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) chief negotiator Peter Cameron said teachers on reduced duties deserve reduced pay, referring to the current first stage of job action under which teachers are not attending meetings or supervising students outside of class. He suggested the cut could increase to 10 per cent if teachers increase their job action.

BCTF president Jim Iker said they had contacted the Labour Relations Board about the threats.

“Unfortunately, the employer has steadfastly refused to table any improvements,” Iker said in the news release. “Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students’ learning conditions, in B.C. Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.”

Attempt to reach Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell for comment on Wednesday by press time were unsuccessful.

The second stage job action will rotate through various districts for a day each from Monday to Thursday and an extension “will depend on events at the bargaining table,” with negotiations scheduled to continue next week.

“This is not what we want to be doing, nobody wants to be on strike,” Morran said, but added “we are ready.”

With CUPE participation, this district will completely shut down on Wednesday, May 28, along with 13 other districts from Victoria and the Lower Mainland to the Okanagan and north. School will reopen Thursday, May 29 as usual.

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