School districts look to cut teacher pay for strike action

School districts are formalizing their plan to cut teacher pay for strike action with a stop-work order

School districts are formalizing their plan to cut teacher pay for strike action with a stop-work order that takes effect 45 minutes before and after school hours and during lunch and recess breaks.

The partial lockout, effective Monday, mirrors the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s first stage of strike action, refusing student supervision outside classroom hours and communication with management. Rotating strikes begin next week, and the lockout is an attempt to bolster the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association case for cutting salaries by 10 per cent in response to the strike action.

BCTF president Jim Iker told a news conference Thursday the stop-work order will disrupt after-hours activities, including graduation ceremonies, which the union had sought to protect with the early stages of strike action.

“No more calls to parents, no more e-mails home, it all comes to an end because of the lockout,” Iker said.

BCPSEA administrator Michael Marchbank notified the union of the lockout terms in a letter delivered Wednesday. The letter also confirmed that if no agreement is reached, secondary school teachers will be locked out June 25 and 26.

Iker said the year-end lockout may disrupt year-end report cards and marking of provincial exams for graduating students.

BCPSEA says the BCTF’s wage and benefit demands add up to 21.5 per cent over four years.

The union is appealing the pay cut to the Labour Relations Board. Iker said it’s unfair to cut the pay of teachers who are still on the job while other districts take part in one-day strikes.

The union says rotating strikes could continue after next week if the B.C. government doesn’t put more money on the table.

All Vernon schools will be behind picket lines on Thursday, and Vernon Teachers’ Association president Heather Malcolm said teachers do not take this action lightly but they are determined to reach an agreement before the end of this school year.

“For over a decade, the teachers of B.C. have been struggling to regain important protections for quality education that were illegally taken away by our provincial government,” she said. “Twice, the BC Supreme Court has ruled that government violated the constitution by denying teachers’ rights to bargain for the things that we know make our classes manageable and help our students learn to their best ability.

“The BC government funds education $1,000 less per student than the national average. And that’s why issues like class size, class composition, and more specialist teachers to ensure all students get more one-on-one time are central to our negotiations with government.

“We always work hard to keep the impact of collective bargaining away from the classroom, but sometimes we have to take a stronger stand to make learning and working conditions better.”

Vernon School Board chairman Bill Turanski said parents are advised to keep their children home during the strike, as the district is unable to provide adequate supervision.

“Support staff (CUPE) will not cross picket lines so this also means school buses will not be running that day,” said Turanski. “In the event students do arrive at school, principals will assess the situation and take action based on their ability to adequately supervise students. Parents may be contacted and arrangements will be made to send students home or to another responsible person.”

— with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press