Kimberley teachers continue to walk the picket line, as negotiations between the B.C. Public Schools Employers Association and the B.C. Teachers Federation continue.
This week, pickets are at all schools, but next week teachers won’t picket Selkirk Secondary. Teachers on the line at Selkirk Thursday said they didn’t want to put students in the position of having to cross picket lines when they write provincial exams next week.
Provincial exams have been deemed an essential service by the Labour Relations Board and teachers are to assist in their administration as required.
The LRB ordered that school districts must consult with teachers on the best way to ensure these requirements are met, whilst minimizing the number of staff needed by combining classes or holding exams in larger groups.
The LRB has also said it will rule on the issue of the submission of marks for students in Grades 10 and 11 if an application is received.
Teachers at the Selkirk line said they wouldn’t be overseeing exams as Selkirk administration had enough people to do so.
As for continuing to picket after the official end of the school year, the teachers said that they hadn’t received instruction on that from the BCTF but they assumed they would stand down for the summer break.
On Thursday, June 19, Minister of Education Peter Fassbender told a press conference that after the BCPSEA tabled what he called “an affordable, creative and comprehensive package to end the stalemate”, the two sides were farther apart than ever.
““The comprehensive package is fully in line with the wage increases and affordable agreements already reached by nearly 150,000 public sector workers,” Fassbender said. “It was not tabled lightly. It was made clear to the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation that we put our best possible offer on the table and it was aimed at concluding this round of bargaining.
“On Wednesday, the BCTF presented their full set of demands. They filled in their blanks and clarified their positions. And instead of moving us closer, their latest demands moved them further away from the affordability zone for public sector settlements.
“Their wage and benefit demands alone are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.
“I’m disappointed. We are now further away from an agreement than we were a week ago. We want to give teachers a raise but the BCTF leadership is making that virtually impossible.
“What BCPSEA has offered is already at the very limit of what we can afford. We cannot split the difference. Our government has a fundamental commitment to balance the budget and we have an obligation to deal fairly with all 300,000 B.C. public sector workers.”
The BCTF, in response to what they call “stonewalling” by the employer, is calling on Premier Christy Clark to agree to mediation.
“BC teachers have put forward a fair and reasonable framework for a deal that would see improved learning conditions for students on the first school day in September,” BCTF President Jim Iker said Thursday. “However, two more days of bargaining have gone by with no progress or counter offers from government and BCPSEA. At this point, the best way to get that deal that works for BC’s public education system is through mediation. Christy Clark should say yes to mediation today.”