Teachers picket in what appears to be abrupt end to school year
VANCOUVER -- As teachers staged their first day of a full-scale strike in British Columbia, the province's education minister said negotiations would resume only if the union comes to the table with a fully costed proposal.
Peter Fassbender said the government's negotiator was ready to go back to the bargaining table with the BC Teachers Federation on Tuesday afternoon.
"The BCTF has not put a fully costed, comprehensive proposal on the table. That's what we're waiting for, that's what we need and negotiations can continue," he said.
Both sides failed to reach an agreement on the weekend, leading to a full-scale walkout Tuesday.
Fassbender said both sides need to stop playing "the blame game," but he also said teachers are demanding "at least two times more" than other public-sector unions that have settled contracts.
Picket lines went up Tuesday, with placard-carrying teachers outside schools across the province.
In Victoria, high school counsellor Lorna Maximick said she was optimistic about an agreement but is now resolved to what could be a summer-long strike.
"I don't want to be here, standing on the street," Maximick said Tuesday. "It's been a very angst(-filled) month or six weeks. I work with Grade 12s as well as other kids so I feel for that.
Many end-of-school events and ceremonies have been cancelled due to the labour woes that have built up since three weeks of rotating strikes began in May, with schools in each district across the province closed for a day.
The government imposed a partial lockout in response and docked teachers' pay cut by 10 per cent when their rotating strikes began.
"I think there's an agenda here with the provincial government, and I don't quite know what it is but I don't feel very good about it," Maximick said Tuesday on the picket line.
Educational assistants who work in classrooms were also off the job, even though they are not on strike.
Cristina Carrasco, a CUPE member, is honouring teachers' picket lines and says the strike has left assistants and many teachers unable wish students and families a safe and happy summer.
"I'm missing the closure. We didn't have enough time to say goodbye to the children and to thank parents, so it's weird."
In Delta, south of Vancouver, union president Jim Iker stood with picketing teachers and repeated complaints that all union proposals have been rejected by the government's bargaining agent.
Such claims produced a stern denial from chief government negotiator Peter Cameron, who accused Iker of misrepresenting the facts.
Wages, class size, support for students and the hiring of specialist teachers remain key issues in the strike that affects more than 40,000 teachers and about half a million students.