Teachers to vote on full strike

“We are hoping for a strong 'Yes' vote to help effect a settlement by the end of June.” - Andy Davidoff, KCTU.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) has upheld an employer bid to cut teacher pay by 10 per cent in response to rotating strikes and refusal to perform some duties outside classroom hours.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker said Wednesday the pay cut and partial lockout of members is “a punitive action” that is unfair to teachers performing their essential classroom duties.

“The government has created the chaos of the partial lock-out as a tactic to put pressure on all of us to capitulate to their offers,” added Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union. “It is ironic that it and the LRB are OK with the disruption to what they determined are essential services.”

In response, the BCTF will hold another vote Monday and Tuesday to authorize full-scale strike action, with results tallied Tuesday night.

“We are hoping for a strong ‘Yes’ vote to help effect a settlement by the end of June,” said Davidoff.

If approved, this would likely mean a full-scale strike within the next two weeks.

LRB vice-chair Richard Longpre dismissed the B.C. Teachers’ Federation appeal of the partial lockout of teachers in a decision released Wednesday afternoon. He said the two sides are free to seek a third-party resolution of that dispute.

Iker said the union is taking legal advice on the LRB decision and may pursue arbitration.

At the bargaining table, the BCTF has reduced its pay increase proposal by one per cent over four years and offered other concessions in a move to end the stalemate.

In an email to union members Tuesday night, the BCTF executive said the offer “adjusted the Federation’s package in seven areas, including salary, benefits, preparation time and [substitute teacher] compensation.”

The new BCTF wage proposal is a total increase of 9.75 per cent over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments in each year depending on inflation. BCTF president Jim Iker has estimated that with inflation, the total increase would be 12.75 per cent over four years.

“The government says they want a deal and then when we move in seven areas to effect a settlement they come back with nothing,” said Davidoff. “If Premier Clark wants a deal and not a fight she needs to provide her negotiators with the resources to make a deal.”

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), representing the province’s 60 school districts, has proposed a 7.5 per cent increase over six years, and recently added a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.

BCPSEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron has described the employers’ wage proposal as in line with other public sector union agreements already reached.

The two sides remain bitterly divided over class size and special needs support staff, the subject of repeated court actions since those provisions were removed from the teacher contract in 2002.

Rotating strikes are to continue next week as well, though there was no confirmation before press time Thursday as to when this will occur in School District 20.

with files from Black Press