B.C. teachers face off with provincial government

Photo: Brad Perkins

The dispute over B.C. teachers' collective agreement is heating up as both sides threaten work stoppages.

On Wednesday night the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) sent a letter to the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) President Jim Iker stating that they will lock teachers out of performing certain duties -- including working during recess and lunch hours and supervising after school programs -- starting May 26 and dock their pay ten per cent if they participate in rotating strikes set to start the same day.

Secondary school teachers will also be subject to a general lockout June 25 and 26, followed by a bargaining unit-wide lockout on June 27.

Iker told media in a press conference Thursday that the teachers are going ahead with their job action Monday. In March, BCTF members voted 89 per cent in favour of taking strike action.

"Making the decision to move to the next stage was not a decision that we made lightly," Iker told rabble on Wednesday, before the letter from BCPSEA was leaked to the media. He said that the BCTF planned their rotating strikes in the hopes of minimizing the impact on students.

"We see [the wage cut] as very punitive and very threatening," Iker added. "Especially since we are in our classrooms teaching and doing everything that we do to try and meet our students needs as best as we can."

At the heart of the dispute are key working conditions for teachers including class size, composition and staffing levels.

This is the first collective bargaining session in 12 years where teachers have been able to negotiate over these conditions, after the BC Supreme Court struck down two separate laws that tried to take away teachers ability to negotiate these working conditions. The B.C. government was granted a stay of the most recent ruling while they appeal the decision.

Photo: Brad Perkins

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