After rejecting an offer from the school district bargaining agency for a long-term contract, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has served notice it will begin work-to-rule action Wednesday.
BCTF president Jim Iker announced Thursday that 72-hour notice has been given, after union members voted 89 per cent in March to endorse a three-stage strike plan.
Phase one includes refusing communication with school managers, arriving no more than an hour before and leaving an hour after school hours, and refusing supervision of students outside class time.
It does not affect pre-arranged voluntary activities such as coaching, but the refusal of supervision requires essential service levels that compel some teachers to assure the safety of students while they are out of classes. Report card preparation and parent meetings will continue.
“We have been waiting, very patiently, for the government to provide the necessary funding required for us to move forward in achieving a negotiated collective agreement,” said Heather Malcolm, Vernon Teachers’ Association president.
“Instead, they have attempted to remove, yet again, the important provisions for class size and composition and minimum levels of specialist teachers that the B.C. Supreme Court restored.”
Iker said progress at the bargaining table will determine how long phase one action would last.
Phase two of the BCTF plan is rotating one-day walkouts in districts around the province. Phase three, a full-scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.
“As teachers, we do not take job action, or even a vote on job action, lightly,” said Malcolm.
“We care deeply about our schools, our students and their families. Many of us are parents or grandparents ourselves.”
The BCTF has rejected the government’s offer for a 10-year agreement with pay increases totalling 6.5 per cent over the first six years, and additional wage increases to be negotiated for the final four years.
There has been little change to the “lowball offer” on wages and no movement on the long-running dispute over class size limits and special needs support, Iker said.
BCTF negotiators countered with a three-year proposal with three per cent plus a cost-of-living increase in each year. With compounding and current estimates of inflation, BCPSEA calculates that could amount to 13.5 per cent over three years.
Iker said school districts are cutting staff and programs due to ministry budget cuts, and the ministry should at least cover school districts’ costs for increase medical services plan premiums and BC Hydro rate increases.
The education ministry says per-pupil funding has increased 38 per cent since 2001, and the ministry has provided $225 million over three years to hire 500 teachers and 400 new special education assistants for the 2012-13 school year.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the teachers’ move is “a little disappointing but not at all surprising.”
“Over the past few weeks, it appears the BCTF has been more focused on implementing its strike plan than bargaining at the table,” said Fassbender. “There has been virtually no movement from the BCTF on their wage and contract positions.
“The union hasn’t moved off its opening position of approximately 13.5 per cent increase over three years, nor has it withdrawn any of its many other monetary proposals.”