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Full teacher strike set for next week

Nader Hatami, owner of Steveston Pizza, has been supporting local teachers by handing out dozens of free pizzas at local schools. The father-of-three said he will continue to support teachers, who are poised for a total walkout on Tuesday. - Martin van den Hemel photo
Nader Hatami, owner of Steveston Pizza, has been supporting local teachers by handing out dozens of free pizzas at local schools. The father-of-three said he will continue to support teachers, who are poised for a total walkout on Tuesday.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

The B.C. Teachers' Federation has served 72-hour strike notice, setting the stage for total walkout next week.

For parents with school-aged children, this sets up a challenging scenario, especially for those with kids in elementary school.

But even moms and dads with pre-school-aged children stand to be inconvenienced, as many daycares operate out of local elementary schools, which could be behind picket lines as soon as Tuesday.

Eric Yung, vice chair of the Richmond Board of Education, said he's hoping the two sides will come together prior to any escalation in job action.

"Obviously we would prefer a negotiated settlement, to resolve the uncertainty that has surrounded everything to date. We ask both sides to consider the needs of the children foremost and believe that a negotiated settlement is best for all sides."

Asked about the impact this will have on parents, Yung said: "We're gravely concerned this has turned a corner from a protest to something that has gotten to actual implications that extend beyond just the labour strife... We are now worrying about graduation and the balanced calendar schools, Spul'u'kwuks and Garden City."

He noted that while most local schools wrap up the year on June 25, that's not true for Spul'u'kwuks and Garden City, and what a full-blown strike means isn't clear.

Though he's hoping an agreement can be reached before there's a full-scale strike, Nader Hatami, owner of Steveston Pizza, is supporting local teachers. He's dropped off dozens of pizzas to teachers at local picket lines since the teachers began job action.

Teachers' federation president Jim Iker said escalated job action would begin with a study session Monday, followed by a full strike starting Tuesday, if necessary. The Monday study sessions will see BCTF members meet off-site—schools won't be picketed but teachers won't be there.

Bargaining is expected to continue through the weekend and Iker said he's hopeful a deal is still possible before the weekend ends to avoid a full strike. A full strike would close elementary and middle schools, while secondary schools would be open only to conduct exams for Grade 10 to 12 students, provided the Labour Relations Board makes exams an essential service.

The province has pledged to end its partial lockout of teachers at the end of the school year to enable summer school operations, but it’s not clear whether summer school would happen under a full strike.

The province has offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers accept its proposal of 7.25 per cent in wage increases over six years by June 30.

The teachers’ latest proposal is for increases totaling 9.75 per cent over four years, plus partial cost-of-living adjustments in each year tied to inflation. The two sides have differing estimates of the compounded grand total of the union’s wage demand.

—with files from Jeff Nagel/Black Press

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