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Parksville Qualicum students get Thursday off as rotating teachers' strike continues

Teachers and their supporters rallied outside MLA Michelle Stilwell’s office in Parksville on Saturday, taking their message about class sizes, composition, staffing and salaries to the streets. - LISSA ALEXANDER PHOTO
Teachers and their supporters rallied outside MLA Michelle Stilwell’s office in Parksville on Saturday, taking their message about class sizes, composition, staffing and salaries to the streets.
— image credit: LISSA ALEXANDER PHOTO

With no outward signs of progress, a third single day rotating strike is scheduled Thursday, June 12 in District 69, while teachers across the province vote on a full walkout.

After a Labour Relations Board ruling allowing the province to cut teacher pay 10 per cent during the partial job action and lockout, B.C.'s 41,000 teachers will vote on escalating to a full-scale strike.

With results expected Tuesday night, a full strike could begin June 16, leaving nine school days that could be affected in most districts.

"We want to see an end to that chaos and a fair resolution to this," said B.C. Teachers' Federation President Jim Iker at a June 4 news conference before the LRB ruling. "The time has come to apply even more pressure, to get a fair deal and get better support."

According to a B.C. government statement Sunday, "The Ministry of Education and the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) want to assure parents that every effort is being made to ensure the strike does not disadvantage students, nor delay their transition to the next grade or on to post-secondary."

They explain that while a strike would close schools, students in grades 10-12 will be able to attend school to write final and provincial exams.

For all grades, "Final report cards will be sent to parents, but written comments may be shorter than usual," according to the statement.

The government has asked the LRB to deem the work required for report cards as an essential service.

They added that most students going on to post-secondary education in B.C. have already been admitted based on their current marks.

The outside pressure is increasing with groups like the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) calling for an immediate end to the strike and lockout.

"Successful outcomes for all students — not just those graduating from Grade 12 — are being affected by this labour dispute," said BCCPAC president Terry Berting. "This has got to stop."

He said the “feud” is having a detrimental effect on students, particularly those most vulnerable, and creating financial hardship for struggling families. They are also concerned about the cancellation of extra-curricular activities, end-of-year celebrations and sporting events, and urge the government and the BCTF to concentrate on achieving a new collective agreement.

Meanwhile the province quietly reached a tentative agreement with 34,000 support staff, mostly represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), including everyone from teaching assistants and secretaries to bus drivers and maintenance workers.

Details are not yet available, but the government said a new five year deal was reached after five intense days of negotiation.

A possible factor in the June 9-10 strike vote is the recent announcement by BCTF president Iker that they are running out of strike pay.He didn’t say how much was left, but that the $50 per strike-day pay would only last a few more days.

Although neither side is saying much about the negotiations, various media reports have the union reducing its wage demands from a 15.9 per cent increase to 14 per cent over four years. The government is offering 7.25 per cent over six years plus a signing bonus. The BCTF also says it is fighting for better class sizes and composition.

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