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Teacher’s strike continues, no classes

Summer Musschoot stands in line with teacher’s at Fernie Secondary School.  - S. Kucharski
Summer Musschoot stands in line with teacher’s at Fernie Secondary School.
— image credit: S. Kucharski

Negotiations between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government on Saturday went awry, leaving parents, teachers and students with more bad news; school will not start on time.

B.C.’s 41,000 teachers have been debating several employment issues through rotating picketing, strikes and lock-outs since June and the battle continues.

“We’re still hoping that we’ll get a deal done sooner rather than later,” President of the Fernie Teacher’s Association, Christina Smith said. “We basically are just saying taxpayers of British Columbia need to say that this money needs to get put into education.”

She went on to say, “We’re going to stand the line and fight the fight, but at the end of the day, this is taxpayers money that’s been taken out of the education system, so parents need to really get on board and say ‘We’re not going to put up with this.’”

In Fernie, Smith predicts at least 660 children will be impacted by the failed negotiations, 360 elementary school kids and close to 300 high school students.

This week, teachers and parents will be picketing in front of Fernie Secondary School and Isabella Dicken Elementary School.

During Saturday’s negotiations veteran mediator Vince Ready declared an impasse and walked away from the talks.

“The issues are complex. This is not just about money. Ultimately, we need an agreement that meets the needs of students and provides long-term stability for public education,” President of the B.C. School Trustees Association Teresa Rezanoff said in a press release.

British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) President Jim Iker also sent out a press release on August 30 stating, “After two days of work with Vince Ready, it has become clear that government is not prepared to find a fair settlement that will get B.C.’s students and teachers back in classrooms.”

Iker said the two parties have not yet come to an agreement on class composition, benefits wages and terms.

“We want back what they took away from us in 2002, which was our right to negotiate and bargain class size and composition,” Smith noted. “We also were able to discuss numbers of special needs kids, kids with learning difficulties.”

Over the weekend the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million, but the BC Public School Employers’ Association in contrast didn’t bring anything to the table, Iker mentioned in his release.

As of Monday September 1, Iker was calling upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to reach a fair settlement to the current strike/lockout prior to September 2.

“Now it’s up to the Premier to step in and help get this deal done so that kids and teachers can get back to class,” Iker said in a press release.

The B.C. government is offering the parents of public school students under the age of 12 years  $40 a day pet student. On Thursday, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced that the $40 a day, totalling about $12 million a day across the province, will be paid out from the savings made not having to pay striking teachers.

The $12 million a day is what it would cost to run the school system each day, de Jong noted, but many feel that money would be better spent on students.

“We have told the Ministers of Education and Finance that the money for the proposed $40-a-day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools,” Rezansoff said.

Parents can claim their $40 per day per child through a government set up website http://bcparentinfo.ca/ The latest bargaining news will also be posted on the website.

 

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