Teachers’ strike will continue into summer school if fair settlement not reached by June 30

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Vancouver: Given the lack of progress in negotiations, the BCTF Executive Committee has voted to extend the strike to summer school if a fair settlement that improves learning conditions for students is not reached by June 30, BCTF President Jim Iker said on Wednesday. Teachers will set up picket lines at worksites where summer school is located.
“Both parties, separated by only 1%, are well within reach of an agreement on wages,” said Iker. “The holdup is now a lack of commitment from government to adequately fund improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers.
“Christy Clark’s 2002 legislation, twice ruled unconstitutional, allowed this government to strip $275 million a year from BC’s education system. The result is 12 years of underfunding that has led BC to become the second worst province on per student funding. It’s time to start closing that gap so we can start a new school year in September with additional funding to properly support BC students.”
In order to get a fair deal for teachers and better support for students, BC teachers are seeking a deal that is based on five key points: 

· a five-year term 

· a reasonable 8% salary increase plus signing bonus 

· no concessions 

· an annual workload fund that adequately addresses issues of class size, class composition, and staffing ratios as an interim measure while both parties await the next court ruling 

· a retroactive grievances fund, as a resolution to Justice Griffin’s BC

Supreme Court decision that retroactively restored the stripped language from 2002. This fund would be used to address other working conditions like preparation time and TTOC compensation improvements, as well as modest improvements to health benefits. Education Minister Peter Fassbender responded to comments made today by Jim Iker, “It is unfortunate that the BCTF leadership decided to strike summer school. Their decision today will impact thousands of students and it will do little to bring the parties closer to agreement.

“While the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) has an application before the Labour Relations Board to deem some aspects of summer school an essential service, this would only partially mitigate the impacts from the BCTF’s strike.

“Apart from this unfortunate development, we heard nothing new from the BCTF leadership.

“The BCTF continues to demand wages and benefits that are more than double what other public sector workers have received. On top of that, they are striking for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.”

(This is part of the statement, to read full statement, visit www.asianjournal.ca)

“We have been very clear – and very consistent – in our view that mediation will only succeed if the BCTF recognizes that the best possible deal for their members is one that falls squarely within the same affordability zone as all the other public sector agreements that have been reached to date.

“On June 15, 2014, BCPSEA tabled comprehensive package to end the stalemate, get kids back in school, and create long-term stability for parents, student and teachers. It included the special $1,200 signing bonus for a deal by June 30, 2014, an improved wage offer, $375 million in guaranteed funding for class composition, and bridging provisions to address the court case.

“BCPSEA made it very clear that the comprehensive offer was very near the limit of what we can afford. Mediation can certainly help us to adjust that package. We are willing to explore puts and takes, small moves here and there.

“But mediation will not split the difference between our respective positions. A mediator will not shake loose hundreds of millions of dollars that we simply do not have.

“Our government has a fundamental commitment to balance the budget and we have an obligation to deal fairly with all 300,000 B.C. public sector workers. We are happy to work with a mediator to help the BCTF to achieve the best possible deal for teachers – but that agreement must be fair for other workers and affordable for taxpayers and that means a sincere effort by the BCTF to get into the affordability zone.”