Kitimat teachers to strike on May 26, part of rotating strike in province

Teachers will be behind picket lines on May 26, Monday, as part of the BC Teachers Federation job action

Schools won’t have teachers and buses won’t run on May 26, as that day has been selected by the BC Teachers Federation as the Coast Mountains School District’s strike day.

On May 20, the BCTF announced rotating strikes to begin on May 26, after an inability to make headway with provincial negotiators.

That’s after the teachers rejected a $1,200 signing bonus offered by the province.

BCTF president Jim Iker said the bonus doesn’t make up for the government’s wage offer of 6.5% over six years. A simultaneous plan to cut teacher wages 5% or more because of strike action is “just so disrespectful, so unnecessary, and we’ll be dealing with it at the Labour Relations Board,” Iker said.

Unless there is some compromise on major issues, one-day strikes with picket lines will be staged at one group of school districts in each of the first four days next week, with teachers returning to work across the province on Friday, May 30.

The Coast Mountains school district asks parents not to send their children to school on May 26 as there will not be adequate supervision.

Teachers in B.C. will be back to work entirely on May 30, although that is a non-instructional day in the local district.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the signing bonus and reducing the contract term from 10 years to six were significant efforts to move toward a settlement.

“Unfortunately the announcement today says that the BCTF feels that disrupting classrooms, affecting children and their families is going to help to reach a settlement,” Fassbender told reporters in Vancouver.

Iker reiterated the union’s position that more pay, more teachers and a return to contract language guaranteeing class size and special needs support are needed to reach a settlement.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province’s 60 school districts, informed the union last week that a 5% pay cut will be put in place “soon” in response to the first phase of strike action.

The BCTF began work-to-rule action in April, refusing supervision outside classrooms and communication with school management. Rotating strikes were also authorized by the BCTF membership in a March vote, and beginning to shut down schools could result in an effort to cut teacher pay by 10%.

Cameron said last week the union’s latest wage demand amounts to 15.9% over four years, far beyond what other provincial public service unions have received. The BCTF maintains its wage proposal is 13.25% over four years, including cost-of-living increases based on each year’s inflation rate.

– Files from Tom Fletcher