Duncan teachers set to begin strike Tuesday

Friday could be the last day of school for public school students as members of the BC Teachers’ Federation announced they would be taking a study session Monday and would begin full scale strike action on Tuesday.

BCTF president Jim Iker said Thursday that he still held out hopes that further negotiating this weekend will result in a settlement, making the whole exercise unnecessary.

A majority of B.C.’s public school teachers voted Monday and Tuesday to back contract demands by boosting their rotating strikes to a full walk-out.

The Ministry of Education and the Public School Employers’ Association immediately announced plans for the strike.

Parents need to know that if the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) starts a full walk-out next week, schools will simply be closed for kindergarten through Grade 9 students.

For Grades 10, 11 and 12, provincial exams will go ahead but picket lines may be present and students in rural areas may not have normal school bus service.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association has applied to the Labour Relations Board to have all services required for the completion of report cards deemed essential including marking school-based and provincial exams, and compilation, entry, and submission of final grades.

The Ministry of Education and BCPSEA said in a release that they "want to assure parents that every effort is being made to ensure the strike does not disadvantage students, nor delay their transition to the next grade or on to postsecondary. A full walkout may impact the last nine days of school before summer break begins on June 27."

Teri Mooring, the BCTF’s second vice president, spoke at a rally organized by the Cowichan District Teachers’ Association outside the school district offices in Duncan on June 5. "Students that are graduating this year have never known adequate support, have never had enough one on one time," she said.

"They have not been in small enough classrooms. A teacher who’s been teaching 12 years has never known contractual class size and composition levels.

"Public education is supposed to be the promise that government makes to its citizens. It’s supposed to be a great equalizer. They’ve got to properly fund education."

CDTA president Naomi Nilsson also spoke at the rally, explaining that she saw under-funding right away on her first job, in Zeballos, where she taught Grade 7, 8, 9 First Nations students in a building that had no computers and no running water.

She saw the results of underfunding firsthand and this continued when she came to the Cowichan Valley and started teaching at Khowhemun Elementary.

It’s important to teachers to know they have strength in numbers, Nilsson said, adding, "now we are 41,000 strong and we can make a difference in public education. Right now the government knows we can make a difference. I am getting calls in the office daily from the public asking how they can support us on the picket lines. That has never happened," she said.

She urged teachers to support each other and be grateful for the backing they are receiving both from other unions and the general public.