With just weeks left in the school year, B.C. teachers have voted in favour of a full scale strike, although when full-scale job action happens is yet to be determined.
The result of the vote, conducted Monday and Tuesday, showed 89 per cent in favour, or 28,809 out of 33,387 ballots cast.
A record high turnout in favour of escalating job action up to and including full withdrawal of services was reflected in votes cast from Kootenay Columbia teachers, according to the local union’s president.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude and respect for the resounding support and solidarity shown by Kootenay Columbia teachers by their vote in our local,” wrote Andy Davidoff, president of Kootenay Columbia Teacher’s Union in an email statement to the Trail Times.
The earliest a full-scale strike could begin is Monday but with no 72-hour strike notice issued as of Wednesday afternoon, the strike start could shift to Tuesday next week or later.
Full job action would close elementary and middle schools while secondary schools would be open only to conduct exams for Grade 10 to 12 students.
As parents and students wait out a full strike date, Lisa Stewart, chair of the district parents advisory council (PAC) and Glenmerry PAC, said families have already been advised to make child care arrangements from now until the end of June.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen but we want them to be prepared,” explained Stewart.
Parents are being constantly updated through social media and emails, she said, but if teachers walk and there’s no school, an important line of communication is cut off.
“So many of our year end activities are up in the air because we usually send the information home with the kids,” Stewart said. “And if we only have three days notice we will be totally cut off from parents.”
Throughout June, Glenmerry PAC sponsors various activities on school grounds including a fun day and a hot lunch special.
Now those plans could be cancelled last minute, adding to the list of field trips and outings the children have missed since job action began April 23.
“The hardest part for us is the end of the year because we offer school supplies and things to order for next year,” Stewart said. “Our ability to reach our entire parental group will end.
“At this point we are relying on Facebook and doing the best we can otherwise.”
If teachers do a full scale withdrawal of service, questions about final exams and official transcripts for local high school students are yet unanswered.
“All of those questions are still in the planning stage,” confirmed Greg Luterbach, SD20 superintendent. “As for grads, all four are proceeding this week,” he said. “The formal school graduation ceremonies are done by staff with parents and volunteers helping.”
The BCTF’s latest proposal is for increases totalling 9.75 per cent over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments in each year tied to inflation.
The province has offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers accept its proposal of 7.25 per cent in wage increases over six years by June 30.
Teachers in School District 20 (SD20) echo the BCTF’s president’s comment that, “there is no reason why a province as rich as B.C. should be second last when it comes to funding education,” said Davidoff.
“We want a deal not a fight before the end of June.”