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Local union says strikes not taken lightly

On Monday, teachers in places around the province will begin one-day rotating strikes. In School District 5, the rotating strike will take place Monday, May 26.

Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook District Teachers' Association said the move to strike is not something teachers do lightly.

"Our teachers have been under tremendous pressure to carry on with 'business as usual' in larger classes, with less support and larger numbers of children who require extra support for many years," Balfour said. "I believe we have reached a turning point in public education in our province."

Meanwhile, the group that represents B.C.'s 60 public-school boards at the bargaining table with teachers says promised wage cuts will take effect Monday as well.

The BC Public School Employers' Association says in a letter to the teachers' union that a five-per-cent wage reduction will jump to 10-per-cent on the first day the teachers' walkout affects any schools.

It also says the employer will lock out secondary school teachers June 25 and 26 and all teachers June 27.

BCTF president Jim Iker said Thursday the stop-work order will disrupt after-hours activities, including graduation ceremonies.

Union members voted 89 per cent in favour of striking in March, and teachers stopped supervising students outside the classroom or communicating in writing to administrators in the first phase of job action.

“Our best case scenario would be to have the government show up at the bargaining table ready to obey the Supreme Court ruling and bargain in good faith in a respectful manner - not follow the carrot with a big stick,” said Balfour. “As teachers, we do not want to be taking job action. We care deeply about our students, and many of us are parents too. We empathize with parents who have to re-work their schedules, and that is why we have taken the unusual step of giving between six and ten days’ notice in advance.”

Both sides remain firmly divided over wages, class size, the composition of those classes and the length of the contract term.

“To date BCTF has given no indication it will be making a significant change in its position which would be expected in collective bargaining and is very disappointing,” writes Michael Marchbank, the association’s public administrator.

“BCPSEA wants to achieve a negotiated settlement before the end of this school year in order to provide stability for students, parents and teachers.”

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