B.C. teachers begin rotating strikes

TEACHERS began rotating strikes on Monday, May 26 to protest what they say is the unwillingness of the provincial government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association to offer any improvements to class size, class composition, and other important learning conditions for students, as well as the employer’s unfair wage demands,

The rotating strikes will continue May 27, 28, and 29. All school districts will be impacted on one of those days. All schools will be open on Friday, May 30. Any extension of the rotating job action will depend on events at the bargaining table.

The rotating closures are part of a two-stage strike plan voted on by teachers in March. During that vote, teachers gave their bargaining team an overwhelming mandate to begin low-level job action and then move to rotating strikes if meaningful progress was not made in negotiations. In all, 29,301 teachers cast ballots—89% voted in favour of the two-stage job action plan.

The planned schedule of school closures (by school district name) is as follows:

Monday, May 26: Vancouver, New Westminster

Tuesday, May 27: Langley, Richmond, Maple Ridge

Wednesday, May 28: Abbotsford, Delta, Coquitlam

Thursday May, 29: Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver


MEANWHILE Minister of Education Peter Fassbender released the following statement:

“It is unfortunate that the BCTF leadership is shutting down schools with their rotating strikes – it is always students and parents who bear the greatest brunt when the BCTF orders teachers to walk out.

“This is the BCTF’s next stage in a strike they started a month ago.  Since April 23, teachers have been directed by the BCTF leadership to withdraw their full duties and to limit their time at the work site to no more than 60 minutes before and after their normal class time.

“Students, parents, teachers, and government want this strike resolved.  That is why on May 16, the government and BCPSEA tabled some significant incentives, such as a $1,200 signing bonus and moving to a six year term, to help reach an agreement by the end of June.

“When BCPSEA tabled those incentives, they asked the BCTF if they were willing to put on hold their stage 1 strike.  The BCTF refused.  When it was made clear that if the union continued with its partial withdrawal of services, BCPSEA would need to respond with a corresponding reduction in teachers’ pay.

“Not only did the union refuse to stand down from its stage 1 strike, a few days later they dismissed the significant moves that BCPSEA made at the table, and informed students and parents that they would shut down schools through rotating strikes.

“We want to see a negotiated settlement and BCPSEA is ready to bargain 24/7, anytime, anywhere.  BCPSEA has a fair offer on the table.  However, the BCTF leadership is asking for a pay increase and other benefits that are more than four times what other public sector unions have recently settled for and their total demands are well beyond what taxpayers can afford.  That remains a key stumbling block to meaningful bargaining.

“It is truly puzzling that BCTF leadership continues to express such great and unwarranted concern that BCPSEA’s response somehow puts at risk extracurricular activities.   The true disruption to student learning comes from the BCTF leadership’s decision to turn students away from their classrooms.

“Parents and students don’t deserve this disruption.  We should be resolving this dispute at the negotiating table, not in the classroom or on the picket line.”