Though local schools will be open Tuesday, School District 20 is asking parents to keep their children home as there will be no staff available for supervising the grounds.
Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union teachers are set to walk away from their duties that day and onto the picket line as part of a rotating strike throughout the province.
“While schools will be physically open there will be no instruction as we anticipate no teachers to be present,” said superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach. “We also anticipate that no support staff will cross the teachers’ picket lines so we will only likely have the principal at each school.”
The closures are part of a two-stage strike plan voted on by teachers in March when 89 per cent of the 29,300 teachers who cast ballots voted in favour as a means to apply pressure to the government during contract negotiations.
In the latest development, school districts are formalizing their plan to cut teacher pay for strike action with a stop-work order that takes effect 45 minutes before and after school hours and during lunch and recess breaks.
The partial lockout, effective Monday, mirrors the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s first stage of strike action, refusing student supervision outside classroom hours and communication with management.
The lockout is an attempt to bolster the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association case for cutting salaries by 10 per cent in response to the strike action.
BCTF president Jim Iker told a news conference Thursday the stop-work order will disrupt after-hours activities, including graduation ceremonies, which the union had sought to protect with the early stages of strike action.
“No more calls to parents, no more emails home, it all comes to an end because of the lockout,” Iker said.
BCPSEA administrator Michael Marchbank notified the union of the lockout terms in a letter delivered Wednesday. The letter also confirmed that if no agreement is reached, secondary school teachers will be locked out June 25 and 26, and all BCTF members will be locked out June 27, the last day of the school year for most schools.
Locally, provincial exams are scheduled from June 18-26, according to the SD20 schedule found on the district website. Prior to making a comment, Luterbach told the Trail Times SD20 is still trying to get a handle on what the news means and how it will impact the Kootenay-Columbia.
Iker said the year-end lockout may disrupt year-end report cards and marking of provincial exams for graduating students.
BCPSEA says the BCTF’s wage and benefit demands add up to 21.5 per cent over four years.
“This is almost four times the rate of increase in the current settlements of the other major public sector unions,” Marchbank’s letter states. “On top of this, the BCTF wants to restore class size and composition formulae that are enormously expensive – in the order of $2 billion annually by year four – despite the fact that educational outcomes have significantly improved since the formulae were removed.”
The union is appealing the pay cut to the Labour Relations Board. Iker said it’s unfair to cut the pay of teachers who are still on the job while other districts take part in one-day strikes.
The union says rotating strikes could continue after next week if the B.C. government doesn’t put more money on the table.
With files from Black Press reporter Tom Fletcher