Comox Valley students will not attend class Thursday as their teachers will be on picket lines.
The BC Teachers’ Federation started rotating strikes around the province this week, in an attempt to increase pressure on the BC Public School Employers’ Association at the negotiating table.
“We want a deal by the end of June; we don’t want this to linger on,” Comox District Teachers’ Association (CDTA) president Steve Stanley said Friday. “We’ve been without a contract for a long time and we want to get a contract going into next year … so we want to increase the pressure to make that happen.”
BCPSEA has also said it wants a deal by the end of this school year, and last week announced a partial lockout in response to the BCTF issuing strike notice, which went into effect Monday. BCPSEA will cut teachers’ pay by 10 per cent per day of the lockout — which is expected to continue until an agreement is signed or teachers stop all job action — with a full lockout of secondary school teachers June 25 and 26 and all teachers June 27 planned.
BCPSEA has said teachers will not be restricted from “extracurricular and volunteer activities,” including graduation ceremonies during the partial lockout, even if they’re held on school property.
Comox Valley School District superintendent Sherry Elwood said concerns about possible effects on extracurricular activities is what district administration has been hearing from parents.
“We have really only heard from parents about their concerns about whether certain events will be going forward,” said Elwood. “We are reassuring them that for the most part these types of events will carry on, as long as teachers are willing to volunteer.”
According to BCPSEA, teachers are still required to complete all “usual evaluation of student work,” including exams and report cards.
The terms of the lockout are similar to teachers’ stage one job action, which started at the end of April. Teachers refused student supervision outside of class and restricted their communication with management.
BCPSEA has tabled a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years, plus a $1,200 signing bonus. Teachers are asking for a 13.7 per cent wage increase over four years. Other issues the two sides disagree on are around class size and composition. Bargaining talks have been ongoing for 16 months.
Four days of rotating strikes started Monday, with teachers in every school district in the province walking off the job for one day.
Comox Valley teachers will picket Thursday outside the schools they work at as well as outside the school board office. Stanley said CUPE staff will join teachers on the picket lines.
“They won’t cross the picket lines; they’ll be showing up and picketing with us and standing together, as we would for them,” he said.
BCTF president Jim Iker has said more rotating strikes could be announced for next week if the dispute is not resolved quickly.
Teachers would need to take another strike vote before a full-scale strike could happen.