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UPDATED: Rotating strikes hit Mission

Mission teachers picket outside schools and the school board office Monday morning. - Carol Aun
Mission teachers picket outside schools and the school board office Monday morning.
— image credit: Carol Aun

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has notified school districts it will continue rotating strikes around the province next week, as negotiations continue to settle their long-running dispute over pay and staffing levels.

BCTF president Jim Iker notified the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association in a letter Wednesday afternoon.

Mission teachers were off the job Monday as part of the BCTF’s job action plan, and will be striking again on Friday, June 6.

“Teachers are basically sick and tired of abuse from the government over the years,” said Mission Teachers’ Union president Mark Bradshaw, who joined his colleagues on the picket lines throughout the day.

Bradshaw said teachers don’t want to interrupt student learning, but are fighting for a contract that looks at class size and composition and a reasonable wage offer.

The public has been supportive of teachers’ job action, said Bradshaw, noting some parents have brought coffee and treats to teachers picketing outside schools.

The rotating strike will hit a different day next week so students are not missing the same classes.

“Our job action has been approved by the Labour Relations Board in advance,” said Bradshaw.

While teachers were back in the classroom on Tuesday, they were partially locked out by their employers. Teachers could not be at school 45 minutes before or after school. Doors were also locked for teachers at recess and lunch times.

“During the day there will be instruction, but teachers will be leaving schools at lunch hour,” Bradshaw explained. “Teachers that stay behind to offer extra help to students won’t be able to do that.”

Iker said the lockout would disrupt graduation ceremonies, and sports, drama and clubs would be cancelled.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association issued a letter to the BCTF Sunday, saying Iker’s statements are incorrect, and there are no school district restrictions on extracurricular or volunteer activities.

“If teachers withdraw from participation in extracurricular or volunteer activities, they do so at the encouragement of the union and by their own choice,” the letter states.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Monday the government is looking for movement from the BCTF on its wage and benefit demands, but isn’t going to impose another contract extension on the union. The legislature adjourned for the summer on Thursday.

“To rush to legislation is not where we’re going to go,” Fassbender said. “We want the BCTF to come to the table with a wage response that is reasonable and within the zone of other public-sector unions. We expect them to come with something that is affordable for taxpayers.”

– with Tom Fletcher

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