B.C. teachers start rotating strikes

B.C. teachers strike as sides return to table in long-standing dispute

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – As British Columbia teachers walked picket lines on Monday, the union and its employer resumed bargaining with pledges to stop further escalation in a dispute that has forced families to make alternate plans for half a million schoolchildren.

All parties in the simmering conflict were lamenting the closure of schools in Vancouver and 15 other districts in job action launched by the union as part of four days of rotating strikes.

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he was grieved to see children pulled into a labour dispute, but firmly stated the government wouldn’t force a resolution.

“I have said consistently, (and) the premier has, we want a negotiated settlement. To rush to legislation is not where we’re going to go,” he told reporters in Victoria.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said he was hopeful that the heightened job action would pressure the employer to make a new offer.

“Our goal is not to be on the picket line. We didn’t want to be doing this,” he said outside Charles Dickens elementary school in Vancouver. “What I’m hoping for is we start making the necessary progress at the bargaining table so we get closer to a deal.”

Teachers sporting signs from their necks walked loops around their institutions, describing the back-and-forth dealings over the week leading up to the strike with words like “confusing,” “frustrating” and “crazy.”

But they were also optimistic that an agreement could be reached.

“I guess we hope it’s going to lead some place good, eventually,” said Tami McDirmid, who teaches grades five to seven.

“Everybody seems to have a different story. So I guess we’re learning to be patient, we’re learning to wait for clear direction from our union.”

Parent Christy Thomas, whose 10-year-old daughter was heading to gymnastics camp for the day, brought teachers banana muffins and said she felt like the government was “acting like bullies.”

“I’ve just been shocked at the kind of tactics in the background and my eyes are just becoming opened to the politics involved here. I find it shocking when you’re dealing with the children.”

In parallel with the strike, which was set to run one day for each school district through Thursday, the province said it planned to start cutting teachers’ pay by 10 per cent.

Iker said another round of job action could take place next week if the conflict was not resolved swiftly, but union members would take a vote before advancing to stage three action.

While more than 40,000 teachers take turns being off the job, unionized school support staff said they’d honour the lines.

Iker conceded the BCTF was leaving it up to members to decide whether or to take part in extracurricular activities.

There’s been plenty of confusion whether events and activities would be cancelled with several letters passing between the employers association and the union over recent days setting out particular rules. Fassbender said he wanted to correct the misinformation, explaining that any teacher at any activity will be covered by workers’ compensation provisions.

BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair also joined teachers on the lines, and said the broader, provincial labour movement supports the union in a goal for long-term labour peace.

“The labour movement will not support back to work legislation ordering teachers back to work,” he said. “If they try the other way then they’re going to be dealing with the entire labour movement.”

The sticking points in the dispute are pay, class size and classroom support.

On Sunday, Peter Cameron, the government’s lead negotiator, said the province is offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years; Iker said teachers want 13.7 per cent over four years.

Cameron, who represents the BC Public School Employers’ Association, said teachers’ demands would cost each taxpayer roughly $1,100.

In April, teachers stopped supervising students outside the classroom or communicating in writing with administrators.

The government offered to cut its initial 10-year contract proposal to six years while offering a $1,200 signing bonus.

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The Oceanside Minor Lacrosse Association will honour their many volunteers on June 26. (PQB News file photo)
Oceanside Minor Lacrosse to honour volunteers on June 26

Appreciation event set for Parksville Community Park

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Most Read