The province-wide rotating teachers’ strike will continue this week, with local teachers here in the valley picketing on Friday, June 6th.
More than 41,000 teachers across B.C. have been engaging in strike action since Monday, May 26th, with those in each district striking one random day each week. For the Rocky Mountain School District 6, schools were shut on Monday, May 26th during the strike action’s first week.
“B.C. teachers are committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement at the bargaining table,” said B.C. Teacher Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker in a press release regarding the second week of strike action. “That agreement, however, needs to include adequate funding to make improvements to important learning conditions, which are teachers’ working conditions.”
According to Mr. Iker teachers have had a generally positive response from the public while out on the picket lines.
In a speech to the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils in the lower mainland on Friday, May 30th following the first week of school closures, provincial education minister Peter Fassbender conceded teachers should get a raise, but said the need must be measured against the cost to taxpayers.
“I stand before you believing that teachers deserve a raise, teachers deserve stability,” said Mr. Fassbender in the speech. “But you know what? Communities deserve that as well, and the government has a responsibility to taxpayers and finding that balance between all of those things.”
Mr. Fassbender expressed optimism the two sides could reach an agreement by the end of June. In response to the strike, the provincial government has instituted a partial lockout and cut teachers’ wage by 10 per cent. In the lockout, teachers may not come to school more than 45 minutes before the first school bell of the day, stay later than 45 minutes after the last school bell of the day, and may not work during recess or lunch hours. The BCTF has challenged the legality of the lockout with the provincial labour relations board and should have a ruling from the board by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4th, according to Windermere Teachers’ Association (the local Upper Columbia Valley teachers’ union) president Doug Murray.
“Teachers aren’t doing anything differently, they are still teaching,” said Mr. Murray. “But it’s difficult to do some parts of your job when you’re locked out.”
Local teachers will strive to ensure tasks that often take extra time, such as writing report cards, still get done, he said.
The Rocky Mountain Teachers Association (the district teacher’s union, which covers teachers from the Golden and Kimberley areas as well as the Upper Columbia Valley) has recently launched a Facebook page that includes information on which day teachers will be striking each week. For more information see www.facebook.com/rmteachers.