The B.C. Teachers Federation has served 72-hour strike notice, setting the stage for total walkout next week.
BCTF President Jim Iker said escalated job action would begin with a study session Monday, followed by a full strike starting Tuesday, if necessary.
“We hope escdalation can actually be avoided,” Iker said Thursday. “My message to Christy Clark is come to the table with new funding, an open mind and the flexibility needed to each a fair settlement.”
The Monday study sessions will see BCTF members meet off-site – schools won’t be picketed but teachers won’t be there.
In Surrey, this means the last day of school for students is today (Thursday), as rotating strikes will shut Surrey schools down on Friday. Delta schools are closed today due to rotating strike action.
Bargaining is expected to continue through the weekend and Iker said he’s hopeful a deal is still possible before the weekend ends to avoid a full strike.
“Let’ concentrate on getting the deal,” he said. “This can be averted by Monday or Tueday at the latest. Then we can all be back in schools.”
The issuance of strike notice followed an 86 per cent strike vote Monday and Tuesday with a record turnout of more than 33,000 BCTF members.
An email to teachers advised them to take personal possessions with them in case schools don’t reopen before summer.
A full strike would close elementary and middle schools – parents will be advised to make child care arrangements if necessary – while secondary schools would be open only to conduct exams for Grade 10 to 12 students, provided the Labour Relations Board (LRB) makes exams an essential service.
The province has pledged to end its partial lockout of teachers at the end of the school year to enable summer school operations, but it’s not clear whether summer school would happen under a full strike.
The B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) said Thursday morning the LRB ruled teachers must administer final exams in Grades 10 to 12, and must submit final marks for Grade 12 by June 20.
The province has offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers accept its proposal of 7.25 per cent in wage increases over six years by June 30.
The BCTF’s latest proposal is for increases totaling 9.75 per cent over four years, plus partial cost-of-living adjustments in each year tied to inflation.
The two sides have differing estimates of the compounded grand total of the union’s wage demand – the BCTF estimates it at 12.75 per cent over four years, while BCPSEA pegs it at 14.7 per cent and says other non-wage compensation costs will further increase the bill, perhaps beyond 19 per cent.