B.C. teachers to picket summer school if deal not reached
Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014 9:27AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 25, 2014 7:08PM PDT
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation says it will continue its strike into the summer if the ongoing dispute with the provincial government isn’t resolved.
Union president Jim Iker announced Tuesday that teachers will picket outside summer schools if a deal isn’t reached by June 30.
“It’s a decision we didn’t take lightly,” Iker said. “It’s been a painful decision for us to take this strong stand that we’re taking.”
The BCTF said it’s still holding out hope that a deal can be reached to end the strike, however.
Iker said the chances would be improved if parents put pressure on Premier Christy Clark to take teachers’ request for mediation seriously.
“We cannot allow government to continually underfund B.C.’s education system. It’s time to stop short-changing our students compared to students across this country,” he said.
Veteran mediator Vince Ready has already declined to wade into the dispute, citing a packed schedule. The union said it has another mediator in mind but wouldn’t comment further Wednesday.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender called the teachers’ announcement a disappointment, noting the province had offered to suspend its lockout so summer school could go ahead.
Fassbender also said the government and union are still “miles apart” in negotiations, and it wouldn’t make sense to bring in a mediator until the two sides come closer.
“We are not going to go into deficit to fund what we think are unreasonable demands,” Fassbender told reporters.
B.C. has promised $375 million over five years to address classroom conditions, he added.
On Tuesday, the government applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board to have remedial summer school designated an essential service.
If the application is approved, teachers would be forced to instruct students who failed high school classes and at five elementary schools that operate on year-round calendars.
They would also have to teach students in custodial or health care facilities.
A hearing hasn’t been set for the issue but Fassbender said he expected the LRB to rule on the application by the end of the week.
Teachers are also set to meet with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association on Wednesday for what are being called “exploratory talks” about the state of the dispute.