B.C. teachers on strike

A full-scale teachers strike in the province came into effect on Tuesday.

An exchange of proposals between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and government negotiators on the weekend dissolved in acrimony Monday, with a full-scale strike in public schools already underway.

Negotiators for the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association met until midnight Sunday, as the union moved from rotating strikes to a full walkout with a “study session” on Monday. The two sides contradicted each other on the substance of the wage offers and each said the next move is up to the other if a deal is to be reached.

BCTF president Jim Iker said Monday a complete strike is “imminent,” after union members endorsed the move in their second province-wide strike vote.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Monday he is waiting for a response from the union to the latest offer from BCPSEA, which represents the province’s 60 school districts. BCPSEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron said Monday he still does not have a full position from the BCTF that clarifies the status of the union’s “truckload of benefit proposals.”

Cameron said the union’s latest wage offer is a reduction from its previous position, but when increased benefit costs are factored in, it is still more than twice as much compensation as other public sector union settlements.

BCPSEA posted a comparison of the two wage offers Monday. It describes the BCTF proposal as a $5,000 signing bonus.

That is followed by increases of 3.5 per cent in the first year and 1.5 per cent in each of the next three years, for a total raise of eight per cent plus compounding.

BCPSEA’s latest offer includes a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year, and a series of wage increases up to May 2019 that includes “economic stability dividend” amounts depending on B.C.’s economic performance.

“[BCPSEA] tabled a comprehensive settlement that includes an improved wage offer and commits to realistic and flexible solutions to address class composition,” Fassbender said.

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.

For updates, watch www.vicnews.com or www.sd63.bc.ca for school information.

— by Tom Fletcher/Black Press

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