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Teachers' strike: full-strike looms but final exams to go ahead

Barring a deal between BC Teachers and government soon the school year will come to an end on Friday, June 13.

BC teachers have served 72-hours strike notice and will begin a full-scale strike starting on Tuesday, June 16. Teachers have also planned for an all-day, off-site “study session” on Monday, Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk said.

Alberni teachers participated in a scheduled rotating strike on Thursday. Teachers will also be scheduling lunch-hour picket at Valley schools on Friday at noon. "We understand that some CUPE staff will remain in the schools for student safety purposes," Zydyk said.

The full-scale strike follows Tuesday’s vote by teachers that saw 33,387 ballots cast: 28,908 or 86 per cent voted to escalate action if needed.

Local voting results weren't released and instead constitute part of the provincial vote average,  Zydyk said.

Teachers’ momentum and personal resources are beginning to erode as the strike wears on.

The Labour Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that provincial exams must go ahead for students in Grades 10-12, the results from which must be submitted by June 20. The ruling also requires teachers to leave school entrances free from picketing during exam days, help facilitate exams.

The teachers' strike pay fund is also set to run out.

“Are our teeth being pulled — absolutely not,” Zydyk said. “Teachers don’t go on strike to get strike pay; they go on strike to try and better learning conditions for children.”

But in SD 70, the strike is starting to drain teachers’ personal resources. One teacher who asked not to be identified said that the strike was hitting them in their pocketbook.

“My last paycheque was $400 less than it usually is, and my next one will be almost $900 less for missing two strike days and that counts being penalized 10 per cent per day,” the teacher said. If the strike goes on longer “that means that I will not be able to pay my rent.”

The government has saved $12 million each week in salaries during the teachers’ current but limited job action, plus nearly $5 million more by chopping wages.

Class size and composition remain sticking points between the two sides, Zydyk said.

The grad ceremony is on the horizon and it’s not known if and how they’ll be affected, School District 70 Superintendent Cam Pinkerton said. “The grad ceremony will carry on.”

School district officials have already had discussions with post secondary institutions about how a strike may impact incoming students. “They’ll take the strike into account in B.C. with things like late transcripts and scholarship applications,” Pinkerton said.

The four-week summer session in July and August at VAST may also be impacted depending on the LRB ruling, Pinkerton said. The session is for students who want to improve their final grades.

A new addition was slated for the summer session that would see ESL students take ESL classes in the morning and participate in a Parks and Recreation activity in the afternoon.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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