Parents in Prince Rupert and across the province are being asked to keep their children at home starting this coming Monday, as British Columbian teachers have been allowed to escalate job action as part of on-going negotiations between the B.C. Teachers Federation (or BCTF) and the provincial government.
“This government continues to undermine the collective bargaining process,” said Joanna Larson, President of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union. “Teachers have spent 78 days at the bargaining table. In January we tabled a reduced package in hopes of moving things forward, but government keeps coming with empty hands, and demands to take more of our rights away.”
The BCTF has given a strike notice for Monday, March 5, after a province-wide vote was held on Tuesday and Wednesday on the topic, with a majority of B.C. teachers voting in favor of striking. Under the Labour Relations Board’s ruling, the union was required to give a two-school day notice before being in a legal strike position.
In Prince Rupert, schools in the district will remain open under the supervision or principals and vice-principles, however the board of education is asking parents to keep their children at home starting Monday, as schools will be unable to provide students with instruction or appropriate supervision during the strike. Any student who shows up at their school on Monday will have their parents or guardians alerted to come pick them up immediately.
“It is the sincere hope of the Prince Rupert Board of Education that this dispute and disruption will be concluded in the near future.” Said Superintendent Lynn Hauptman.
Under the Labour Relation Board’s order, teachers will be back to work on Thursday, March 8.
Recently, Education Minister George Abbott announced his plans to prepare legislation to end the ongoing labour dispute. The legislation, which the provincial government is debating, would extend the teachers’ current pay and benefits for another six months, while a mediator works with the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association in an effort to find common ground on class sizes, special needs support and other issues.
The Provincial government is sticking to a two year ‘net zero’ mandate, to be followed by another two years with no new money increases for teachers.
“Teachers are facing a possible four years without even cost of living increases” says Larson, “and we are still waiting for the remedy to Bills 27 & 28.”
The government says that there is no money to be increased, and if the teachers were to see an increase in wages it would mean large debts for the province.
Since September, BC teachers have refused to supervise recesses, meet with administrative staff, or fill our report cards.