Teachers ‘strike’ has had little impact on students, so far 

So far so good for Whistler students surviving the teacher’s "unstrike."

"It hasn’t really affected me or my son," said Maureen Richmond, Parent Advisory Committee chairwoman for Whistler Secondary.

Many of the after school sports are coached by community coaches so they are still going on, said Richmond. And students are pretty self-motivated when it comes so projects like their year book.

Teachers have been involved in job action for the last couple of weeks after they issued strike notice Nov. 6.

Contract talks between the British Columbia Teachers Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers Association have been at an impasse for months. Marjorie Reimer, president of the Howe Sound Teacher’s Association, is hearing from parents.

"There is some discomfort on the part of parents as far as having difficulties getting hold of teachers," she said.

"We are hoping that our administrative officers will be co-operating (by) allowing us release time during the day so we can meet with parents during the day in critical stages.

"But certainly lots of communication is going back and forth between parents and teachers in the ‘back and forth’ books.

"And teachers are meeting with parents during class time to resolve issues.

The BCTF reduced its salary demands earlier this week.

They had been asking for 34 per cent but lowered it to 22 per cent over three years. The requested increase would work out to six per cent each year for two years, followed by a four per cent raise in the third year. They also want a six per cent market adjustment.

Reimer said the adjustment is important to attract students to the profession.

"It is an attempt to help attract teachers into our profession," she said.

"We believe we are going to have a huge shortage of teachers. Students in university at this time are having a difficult time choosing teaching when they see the kinds of issues we are having to deal with with the province."

Starting salary in the Howe Sound District for a teacher with five years of university is $38,000 said Reimer.

The employer is offering 7.5 per cent over three years.

"That’s just not enough to attract young people into teaching," she said.

The union has also softened its stance on class size, agreeing to be more flexible.

"We are really interested in negotiating," said Reimer.

However, the employers have said that they will not make any counter offer until the teachers reduce their demands further.

"We are currently determining the actual cost of the proposal, but it is clear that it is still well beyond the total dollars available for this round of bargaining," said BCPSEA chair Ken Denike.

"If the BCTF is serious about reaching a negotiated collective agreement, they must engage in serious dialogue with us on the key core issues and work within the money available.

"The gulf between the parties remains immense – we have around $300 million to work with and even with their revisions, the BCTF proposals are in excess of $5 billion."

The government stated again this week that it would consider a legislated end to the action if negotiations don’t produce some results soon.

Besides the salary hike teachers want more class size limits, additional specialized teachers in schools, early retirement incentives and a guarantee of services for special-needs children.

The employer’s association wants more flexibility in the way classes are structured.

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