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Teachers prepare to vote
Teachers insist they aren’t trying to disrupt classrooms.
North Okanagan-Shuswap and Vernon teachers will participate in a provincewide strike vote March 4, 5 and 6 to pressure the government on a range of contract issues.
“We’re looking for better support for students and a fair deal for teachers,” said Heather Malcolm, Vernon Teachers Association president.
If job action occurs, the B.C. Teachers Federation says phase one would not include immediate school closures, or stop teachers from participating in extracurricular activities or affect report cards and communication with teachers.
Job action could escalate depending on progress at the negotiating table, says the union.
Bargaining has occurred between the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers Association for a year, but the union says unrealistic concessions are being sought by the employer.
“I’m hearing they (teachers) are frustrated so they will likely vote for some form of job action,” said Malcolm.
Despite a recent court ruling, the BCTF says the employer is seeking changes in class sizes, class composition and staffing levels for teacher/librarians, counsellors, special education and other specialist teachers.
“We want smaller class sizes and more supports so kids are better served,” said Malcolm.
According to the union, teachers are not being offered a wage increase.
“Despite most other public sector workers receiving increases in the range of 3.5 to four per cent over two years as part of the co-operative gains mandate, the government has directed BCPSEA to pursue a totally different agenda with teachers,” said Jim Iker, BCTF president.
The Vernon School District is watching the labour situation closely.
“We will have to deal with the situation as it unfolds,” said chairperson Bill Turanski, adding that the district can’t make any plans until it knows what form of job action may occur.
In terms of the union’s demands, Turanski says the district is experiencing financial challenges.
“All of these (demands) require additional personnel. We don’t have the money to recruit additional personnel,” he said. “Until we get additional funding, we are bound by what the Ministry of Education provides us.”