The impasse between the B.C. Teachers Federation and provincial government continued this week with rotating strikes and a partial lockout still in effect – and the voices of frustrated students and parents joining the fray.
Disruptions to the school schedule remained, in spite of an expected three days of ongoing negotiations between the BCTF and B.C. Public School Employers Association.
Rotating strikes, which began last week, continued in Surrey Tuesday, while the lockout – which prevents teachers from assisting students during recess and lunch and limits help before and after school – was still in place.
The latest word at Peace Arch News’ press time Wednesday was confirmation that the BCTF is willing to come down by one per cent on its most recent wage demands (a 15.9 per cent increase over four years) – still a long way from the province’s most recent offer (7.25 per cent over six years, plus a signing bonus).
The B.C. Labour Relations Board was also due to hand down a ruling on the legality of the government’s decision to cut teachers pay by 10 per cent during the lockout.
B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff said in a news release that, regardless of the outcome of the ruling, the organization stood by its ‘Stability for Students Action Plan’ emphasizing that student success “must not be compromised in any way.”
“The time for serious and concentrated bargaining is now,” she said. “We call on the BCTF and the government to redouble their efforts and negotiate all summer if necessary to end the current unrest.”
Students were also getting into the act this week, with two events originating in Surrey.
Tuesday, students Raaj Chatterjee (Semiahmoo Secondary) and Heewon Oh (North Surrey Secondary) organized a rally at the Fleetwood office of Education Minister Peter Fassbender.
Chatterjee and Oh said they were protesting for public education, and against underfunding and labour disputes. Cash-strapped districts, they said, are forced to cut programs, while “students are falling between the cracks due to class size and composition issues.”
A provincewide walkout of students was planned for Wednesday, spearheaded by Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary Grade 12 student Victoria Barker, who told media her entire academic career has been overshadowed by struggles between the union and province.
Meanwhile B.C.’s senior parenting group encouraged parents to write to Fassbender and BCTF president Jim Ilker to explain the effect rotating strikes and lockout is having on families.
BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils called for an immediate end to what it describes as a “feud” between the BCTF and the provincial government.
BCCPAC president Terry Berting said the strike and lockout is having a detrimental effect on students – particularly the most vulnerable – as well as creating financial hardship for families.
The cancellation in some schools of extra-curricular activities, end-of-year celebrations and sporting events is also of concern, Berting said, adding that such disruptions, more than simply impacting Grade 12 grads, “affect successful outcomes for all students.”