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B.C. teachers in classrooms with strike mandate

Comox Valley teachers showed strong support for their union during last week's strike vote, according to Comox District Teachers' Association president Steve Stanley.

More than 29,000 of the BC Teachers' Federation's 41,000 members voted in the three-day provincewide vote, with more than 26,000 casting ballots in favour of job action.

According to Stanley, more than 500 Comox Valley teachers cast ballots last week and the percentage who voted in support of a strike was slightly higher than the provincial average.

"We are proud of the teachers in the Comox Valley for the strong turnout to vote and the very high percentage of members who voted in favour of a strike," says Stanley.

"We believe this reflects a strong sense of unity among teachers and is a very clear message to the government that we want to see movement towards a negotiated settlement at the bargaining table."

The BCTF now has 90 days to start some form of job action, but, if it chooses to move forward with any job action, it will give 72-hour strike notice first.

Any initial job action would be administrative, according to Stanley, and would not affect students. It would not affect voluntary extracurricular activities by teachers, and teachers would continue to produce report cards and meet with parents.

This strike vote also gives the union the option to escalate strike action to rotating strikes, but teachers would need to hold another provincewide vote before a full-scale walkout could happen.

"We do not initiate job action lightly and we will do everything we can to ensure students are not impacted by our actions unless there is no movement at the bargaining table," continues Stanley. "We will continue to meet with government at the bargaining table to seek a deal.

"We are always optimistic that progress can be made if both parties are willing and believe a settlement can be reached through collective bargaining."

Teachers have been without a contract since last June and bargaining talks have been going on for more than a year. Government has been trying to reach a 10-year deal with teachers and Education Minister Peter Fassbender says that effort will continue.

"We will continue to seek a long-term agreement that's fair for teachers, affordable for taxpayers, and that puts the interests of students first," Fassbender says, noting the employers' bargaining team tabled a 6.5-per-cent wage increase over the first six years, and as of Friday, it was waiting for the union to table its wage demands.

Major issues at the bargaining table include class size and composition as well as wages.

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writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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