Fernie teachers picket during rotating strikes

Dozens of teachers picketed outside Isabella Dicken’s Elementary School, Fernie Secondary School and the Fernie District Learning Centre to protest the current state of the province's public education system.

Last Wednesday, the B.C. Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) sent a three-page letter to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) in response to rotating strike threats.

BCPSEA’s Public Administrator Michael Marchbank wrote that teachers involved in rotating picket strikes and protesting will be docked 10 per cent from their salaries.

The letter states that, “bargaining unit employees are directed not to work during recess or lunch hours.” A demand that Fernie and District Teacher’s Association President Kate Noakes says puts teachers in a really tough spot.

In addition, teachers are being directed not to be on school property earlier than 45 minutes prior to class time, another request Noakes says is problematic.

It is not uncommon for students to miss a test, whether it is for medical reasons or because of a delayed bus. Noakes says this demand makes it impossible for students to make up for missed schoolwork.

“It’s pretty tough,” she said.

“They’re (teachers) in a terrible position really.”

The letter came in response to an ongoing battle with the provincial government. This wave of the clash began on April 23, when B.C. teachers began stage one job action in response to unfair working conditions, which resulted in several school districts canceling recess.

Following the April 23 decision, the BCTF urged school districts to reconsider recess cancellations, calling it unnecessary.

Noakes says that the BCPSEA’S most recent demands are also unnecessary.

The teachers' biggest concern in these negotiations is to have the current staffing issues resolved, the union president says. Teachers are attempting to negotiate class sizes so that the student’s can receive proper individual attention, she says.

On Monday Noakes wore a sign that read, ‘Teachers working conditions are students learning conditions.’

And she says the teachers have received a lot of support from parents and other members of the community.

“A lot of parents know what it's like for their child when their child’s in a class that doesn’t have proper support. They get it, they get what we’re out for,” Noakes says.

“We’re fighting for the long term and we’re not doing it to hurt children.”

The BCPSEA letter states, if a deal is not made by the end of the school year another lockout will come into effect for June 25 and 26.



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