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Teachers readying for strike vote in Alberni

Alberni Valley teachers are set to participate in a province-wide vote on a strike mandate, Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk said.

Teachers will be voting March 4-6. Voting in Ucluelet-Tofino will take place March 4, while advanced and main-day voting will take place March 5-6 in Port Alberni.

“Our members wanted a negotiated settlement so they are very disappointed with this.” Zydyk said.

“I’m confident that we’ll get a high number of votes in favour of a strike.”

“Unreasonable” proposals from provincial negotiators team about class sizes and wage increases prompted the vote, Zydyk said.

The government proposal would completely nullify teachers’ victory around class size and composition, he said. As well, the wage proposal is lower than what other public sector unions have received to date, and calls for a zero per cent increase in 2014-2015.

Government flouting the recent court ruling on class size stuck in Zydyk’s craw, he said. “When they put in a proposal shortly after the court ruling that ignored it, I lost all hope that we’d get a negotiated agreement without a strike mandate,” he said. “This is a last resort and not an easy thing to do.”

BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker said any strike action would be phased in, and would not immediately include forcing teachers to stop extra-curricular volunteer work, withholding report cards or walking off the job.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said wage negotiations “have to start somewhere” and after a year of bargaining, the BCTF has yet to present a wage demand. He declined to provide specifics of the government offer, but said classroom conditions are on the negotiating table.

“Clearly we’re at the table with class size and composition,” Fassbender said. “Our negotiators presented a package of proposals. We are still waiting to see the full proposal, including the wages, from the BCTF.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

— With files from Tom  Fletcher, Black Press

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