UPDATE: Teachers voted to start a full scale strike Tuesday, June 17.
However, there will likely be no school on Monday as teachers across the province take a study day. There will be no pickets at the schools, but teachers will not be in the classroom.
Study sessions fall under the rotating strikes of the stage two of the job action, which allowed for schools to be closed one day each week. As such, it only requires 48 hours notice, unlike the full-scale strike, which requires 72 hours notice.
Teachers will review the BCTF’s bargaining package during the “study session,” the BCTF said.
Provincial exams for Grades 10-12 and final marks for Grade 12s will go ahead, as the Labour Relations Board ruled last night, June11, those are essential services.
“There are still several days left, during which both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike, and end the government’s lockout. We’re ready to move, but my message to Christy Clark is, come to the table with new funding, an open mind, and the flexibility needed to reach a fair settlement that will support teachers and students,” said BC Teacher's Federation President Jim Iker in a release.
"To get a fair deal and avert a full-scale strike, BC teachers are looking for improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers to increase one-on-one time for students.
“In addition to improvements to student learning conditions, a fair deal must also include a fair wage increase for teachers.”
The employer is offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years. Teachers are asking for a 9.75 per cent increase plus a portion of cost of living over four years. The Vancouver Sun reports that a starting teacher in the city earns $48,083 and the top salary level, reached after 10 years of work, for a teacher with a master’s degree in education is $81,488. The BCTF says the average teacher’s wage is $71,485.
Teachers are also asking for class size and composition rules and specialist teacher ratios be restored to their contract.
In a release Education Minister Peter Fassbender said: "Our main focus though, is to get to an agreement by June 30, 2014, and put this disruption behind us. The BCTF has said they want to avoid the strike and they are ready to bargain through the weekend. BCPSEA will be there.
"Teachers deserve a raise but it must be in line with recent agreements covering nearly 150,000 public sector workers - including 34,000 school support workers. BCPSEA has a fair wage offer on the table that includes a $1,200 signing bonus if we get to an agreement by June 30, 2014.
"I know everyone involved wants to head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability and focussed on student outcomes."
The Sun reports that for every day teachers are on the picket line, the government saves $12 million and another $4.5 million for support staff, according to the Education Ministry.
When the government gives you lemons, make lemonade.
That's what one of the signs outside of Myrtle Philip Elementary said on Wednesday June 11, as parents and students gathered to show support for teachers the morning after the BCTF voted overwhelmingly in favour of pursuing a full-scale strike.
"I 100 per cent support the teachers, because they're doing everything they can to make education better for the children," said Lucy Pomroy, one of the Myrtle Philip parents.
"I think unless parents stand up and get informed about what's going on, I don't know that change can happen."
Several of those parents joined students and teachers outside of the school with homemade signs, sidewalk chalk and a lemonade stand. Sea to Sky schools were out June 11, as part of the rotating strike action initiated by the teacher's union last month.
While teachers voted in favour of increasing strike action if necessary, many hope it doesn't come to that, said Gerhard Reimer, who teaches a split Grade 2-3 class at Myrtle Philip.
"We would prefer if things were bargained in good faith and settled before there was a need," Reimer said.
"None of us want to go on a full-scale walkout."
But the sentiment among teachers is that this is the last resort to improving student support, he said.
"We're feeling that this is an important time when we need to take a stand, because we don't have any other choice," Reimer said.
"There seems to be less and less funding, and we just feel that there needs to be more support for students."
Of 33,387 ballots cast over Monday and Tuesday, 28,809 voted in favour of strike escalation.
"With this vote, B.C. teachers have sent a very strong message to Christy Clark and her government; it's time to negotiate in good faith, put new funding on the table, and reach a fair deal with teachers that also provides better support for students," BCTF president Jim Iker said in a press release.
If the BCTF decides to serve notice, they must provide three working days of notice before a strike can take effect.
"That means there are still several days left that both sides can hunker down, reach a settlement, avoid a full-scale strike and end the government's lockout," Iker said.
In a statement released by education minister Peter Fassbender following the vote; he agreed that there is still time to work out a deal.
"The BCTF leadership needs to come to the table with realistic expectations and a willingness to engage in meaningful bargaining," Fassbender said.
"Teachers deserve a raise but their total compensation demands are about four times more than other recent settlements."
Last week, Fassbender assured parents and students that exams will go ahead as scheduled.
"Our commitment as the employers through BCPSEA and the government is we will ensure that every graduate will be able to complete their required exams," Fassbender said.
On June 6, BCPSEA sent a letter to the B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) asking that exams for Grade 10-12 students be deemed an essential service should the strike escalate.
If the LRB accepts the application, teaching staff will be required to administer, mark and submit provincial examinations and provide assistance for students with special needs, among other end-of-year housekeeping items.
As of June 11, the LRB had yet to make a ruling.
The ministry isn't expecting any delays with elementary report cards either.
"We will ensure that every student's educational journey will end successfully this year," Fassbender said.
Grade 7 leaving ceremonies for both Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek elementary schools have been moved to the Westin Resort and Spa in response to the strike action.
With a full-scale teacher strike come concerns over childcare for the remainder of the school year, but there are some options available for Whistler parents.
The Whistler Racquet Club (604-932-1991), the Whistler Youth Soccer Club (604-902-0400), DFX Kids Mountain Bike Camps (1-800-766-0449) and Whistler Gymnastics (902-3547) are all offering day camps in the event of a full-scale teacher strike.
The RMOW will also offer programming through Kids on the Go starting Monday, June 16.
For more information contact the Myrtle Philip Community Centre at 604-935-8370 or the Meadow Park Sports Centre 604-935-7529 or visit www.whistler.ca/recreation.
To register, please call 604-935-PLAY (7529).
Call ahead to register or for more information.
While teachers prepare for a full-scale strike, BCPSEA has announced details of a tentative framework reached between itself and support staff in the public education sector.
The proposed agreement is based on a five-year term that includes a 5.5 per cent wage increase, benefits standardization, increased hours for education assistants and a plan to address recruitment and retention issues.
For up-to-date information on local strike action check www.sd48seatosky.org.
For updates to this story check www.piquenewsmagazine.com.
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