The union representing British Columbia’s 41,000 public school teachers has officially provided strike notice to the province, setting the stage for job action to commence on Sept. 6, 2011. This fulfills the union’s obligation to provide 72-hours notice of an intended strike.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has indicated the first phase of the job action will be the refusal of attendance at any staff meetings where school or district administration is present. However, the union has also said that teachers will continue to support extracurricular activities.
The BCTF is demanding wage increases to reach pay parity with other provinces despite a current wage freeze by the provincial government for the public sector. The union is also seeking to double bereavement leave to 10 days on the death of any friend or relative, and 26 weeks off each year as a fully paid leave to provide compassionate care to any person.
The B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCSPEA) — the association that bargains on behalf of the province’s schools — has said the union’s demands would cost an additional $2.2 billion each year.
B.C.'s Education Minister George Abbott said Tuesday that the province is prepared to step in to end an strike by teachers should one disrupts classes.
"One need only to look at history to know that there have been numerous occasions in recent decades where these withdrawals have resulted in what is termed a legislated solution," Abbot told reporters in a press conference. "And, obviously, no government in British Columbia will stand aside and let schools be closed for a protracted period of time."
The BCTF members have been without a collective agreement since June 30, 2011 and voted 90 per cent in favour of a strike mandate in July 2011.
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