Just a day before full scale strike action began, Fernie teachers and supporters hit the streets for a rally Monday morning. A large group lined all four corners of Highway 3 and Seventh Street stocked with signs and encouraging vehicles passing by to wave and honk in support.
President of the Fernie District Teachers’ Association Kate Noakes was pleased to see the community come out for the cause.
“It was awesome,” she remarked. “I was glad there was a big turnout because our rally wasn’t just about teachers, it was about saving public education. There’s a movement against public services – publicly funded public services – across the western nation of the world, and we are part of that.”
Noakes was pleased to receive support at the rally from other unions, including United Steelworkers 9346 and the local postal workers.
“We have a lot of support,” she said. “I think people are beginning to understand that this is about a lot more than the teachers, and it’s not because we’re greedy and unreasonable. It’s about way more than that and it really is important that the public know that.”
Full scale strike action began today, after negotiations between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the government stalled yesterday afternoon.
Last Thursday, the BCTF served the required strike notice of 72 hours, after members voted 86 per cent in favour of escalating rotating strike action. The province’s 41,000 teachers have been without a contract since June 2013, and the full strike is the latest development in a dispute that has seen the union and government divided over issues of wages and classroom conditions.
The latest offer made by the BCFTF on Friday dropped wage demands to eight per cent over five years, down from their original offer of 13.5 per cent over three years. It also proposed a $5,000 signing bonus and asked for new money specifically to deal with classroom conditions.
The government is now proposing seven per cent over six years and maintaining its offer for a $1,200 signing bonus if the deal is done by June 30.
The B.C. Labour Relations Board has extended its essential services order to include provincial final exams and marks for graduating students, so they can apply for post-secondary studies.