With a 'low-level' job action looming at schools across the province, the head of the Sea to Sky Teachers' Association is hopeful a full strike can be avoided.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) will initiate a job action Wednesday, April 23 that Local 48 president Carl Walker said will have "minimal effect" on students, citing major concerns over "large class sizes, complex classes that don't have adequate supports, and protections for specialist positions."
Wednesday's job action will be "administrative in nature," Walker said, meaning teachers will not supervise students outside of regular class time and will not attend any meetings or engage in written, printed or electronic communication with school administration. Teachers will however continue leading any extracurricular or voluntary activities, complete report cards and communicate with parents, Walker added.
"Despite our patience and our measured approach in bargaining, (Premier) Christy Clark and her government are once again trying to provoke B.C. teachers and shut down B.C. schools," said BCTF president Jim Iker, in a release. "Job action, even low-level action, is always a last resort because teachers care deeply about our schools and our students. That is why teachers are asking for smaller classes, more one-on-one time for our students, extra help for those who need it, and more specialist teachers to enhance every student's educational experience."
Last month, 89 per cent of voting teachers supported a job action following an extended period of negotiations. Walker said a major obstacle at the bargaining table has been Victoria's insistence on drafting a 10-year deal without providing the resources to fund such an agreement.
Education minister Peter Fassbender expressed his disappointment with BCTF in a recent release, saying recently it's appeared like the federation "has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table." He was also critical of the union's alleged unwillingness to budge on a proposed 13.5-per-cent wage increase over the next three years.
"I completely disagree with that," Walker responded, saying the federation is willing to negotiate on any point. "Our members are onboard with this action and in fact our members have been at the bargaining table long before (Fassbender) was minister. We started bargaining last March over a year ago and we've made every effort at the bargaining table to reach a settlement."
If a deal is not reached, Walker said the next step would be rotating teacher strikes across the province, although no date has been set to initiate such an action.
"I'm hopeful that a full strike can be avoided," he added. "We will do what we can to avoid any kind of strike action or any kind of withdrawal of services, but it just depends on how things are going at the bargaining table."