BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Teachers Strike Notice Issued

04/17/2014 06:20 EDT | Updated 06/17/2014 05:59 EDT
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VANCOUVER - Job action by British Columbia's 41,000 teachers will begin next Wednesday, but the union's president says schools will remain open.

Jim Iker of the B.C. Teachers Federation said Thursday the first stage of job action means teachers won't attend meetings with management, other than health and safety talks, or supervise students outside regular class hours.

He also said teachers won't provide or receive printed, written or electronic communications from administrators or be at work more than an hour before or after classes.

"There will be no immediate disruption to our students," Iker told a news conference. "Teachers will be in classrooms continuing to teach. Also this first stage does not ask for teachers to stop participating in voluntary activities or extracurriculars. And teachers will continue writing report cards and communicating with parents."

There's been little progress in contract talks with the government since March 6 when teachers voted to take job action, he said.

Iker said he's hoping the government won't repeat its actions from the last round of bargaining by not intending to come to an agreement with teachers — as outlined in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling against the province earlier this year.

A judge awarded the union $2 million in damages and declared the government's removal of class size and composition from contract negotiations was unconstitutional.

The government said it is appealing the court ruling.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday tht he's disappointed with the upcoming job action but not surprised the B.C. Teachers Union has issued strike notice.

"Over the past few weeks, it appears the BCTF has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table," he said in a statement.

Fassbender said there's been no movement from the union on its wage and contract provisions and that it's stuck on its request of a 13.5-per-cent wage increase over three years.

"I am told by the employers' association that there are moves that can be made at the bargaining table, but the employers' moves are not being reciprocated by the union," he said of the B.C. Public School Employers Association. "Now that the BCTF has formally initiated their strike plan, BCPSEA hopes the BCTF will now turn its attention to some real bargaining."

Iker said he hoped the union won't have to go to the second stage of strike action, which would include provincewide walkouts one day a week. He said the main issues are class sizes, pay, staffing levels and what Iker says is an unreasonable demand for 10-year contract term.

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