Schools could open next week, pending deal

A tentative deal has been sought to end the months-long B.C. school strike.

A tentative deal has been sought to end the months-long B.C. school strike. Teachers could put it to a vote on Thursday and classrooms may be filled as early as next week.

The deal was initialed by the B.C. Teachers Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers Association and announced Tuesday morning after four days of marathon talks and negotiations between the two parties.

Vince Ready, mediator for the two groups, did not release any further information describing the deal, as details were still being finalized on Tuesday.

Upon finalization, B.C. teachers will still have to put the strike’s end to a vote. According to BCTF spokesperson Nancy Knickerbocker via Twitter, that vote could go down as early as Thursday.

Students have already missed two weeks of the school year, and although this turn of events indicates classrooms will open their doors, a lot of work has to be done.

Schools were left vacant during the strike and will require maintenance and cleaning, while schedules to assist students unable to attend summer school need to be drawn up. Teacher’s themselves will also need time to prepare for classes to finally welcome students back.

Prior to talks, other provincial unions provided financial assistance to B.C. teachers during the standoff with the government.

Last Wednesday, ten unions banded together to provide financial support to the province’s striking teachers through loans and funding totaling $8.5 million.

The majority of that money comes from nine unions that funded $8 million worth of interest-free loans for the teachers.

Jim Sinclair, B.C. Federation of Labour president, said that the loan would act as a safeguard for the teachers, against government financial undermining.

The list of contributors include the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Unifor National, the Hospital Employees Union, United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, the Health Sciences Association and the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators.

On that same day, the BC Nurse’s Union (BCNU) announced that they were providing B.C.’s teachers with $500,000 “to help defend public education.”

BCNU president Gayle Duteil said the decision to “[stand] up for public education” was unanimous from the union’s members.

“With this funding, nurses are standing in solidarity with teachers,” Duteil said in a press release. “We know some teachers are struggling to pay their bills and feed their children. I, and the BCNU executive, believe this is the right thing to do.”

The simultaneous funds came in on the same day that the B.C. Teacher’s Federation put the proposal to settle the dispute through binding arbitration to vote.

B.C. teachers voted overwhelming in favour of binding arbitration, with 99.4 per cent saying ‘yes’ despite the government’s two prior rejections of the proposal.