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LRB to rule Wednesday on legality of teacher pay cuts

While Queen Elizabeth Secondary School science and math teacher Michael Glenister – who is also a magician – might like to make the government disappear, for now he ‘levitates’ Grade 12 student Pooja Raj during strike action on Thursday afternoon outside the school. Teachers’ rotating strikes continue this week. - Evan Seal / The Leader
While Queen Elizabeth Secondary School science and math teacher Michael Glenister – who is also a magician – might like to make the government disappear, for now he ‘levitates’ Grade 12 student Pooja Raj during strike action on Thursday afternoon outside the school. Teachers’ rotating strikes continue this week.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

The B.C. government is not planning to legislate a settlement to the latest teacher strike, which is shutting down schools in each district again this week.

Delta public schools were closed Monday, while Surrey’s are expected to be behind pickets Tuesday.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said last week the government is looking for movement from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (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.”

Lockout provisions were announced by the government last month to mirror union work hour restrictions that started in April.

The BCTF was at the Labour Relations Board (LRB) last week, arguing the province doesn’t have the right to dock teachers’ pay by 10 per cent. Government argued teachers can’t be expected to be paid for work they’re not doing during job action, while the union says the government is trying to provoke a full-scale strike.

The pay cut is saving the government more than $1 million per day. The rotating strike is also saving another $16.5 million per week because teachers aren’t paid for the days they are on strike.

A ruling from the LRB is expected Wednesday afternoon.

After the lockout was imposed, BCTF President Jim Iker said it 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 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.

Fassbender also rejected the union’s claim that teachers doing volunteer work are not covered for work-related injury.

“Any teacher that is at any activity that is sanctioned by a school district is absolutely covered by WorkSafeBC,” Fassbender said.

Iker argued that in the past, coverage hasn’t always been a certainty and that the government can’t have it both ways – ask teachers to volunteer their time while simultaneously docking their wages.

- with files from CBC

 

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