Teacher dispute may disrupt students' grad, year-end exams

School district chief negotiator Peter Cameron - Black Press
School district chief negotiator Peter Cameron
— image credit: Black Press

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% in response to the strike action.

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

"No more calls to parents, no more emails home, it all comes to an end because of the lockout," Iker said.

BCPSEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron said the lockout terms match existing union work hour restrictions and do not interfere with voluntary activity. Teachers can choose not to contact parents or take part in graduation, but the lockout doesn't prevent that and there is no pay to cut for such volunteer activities, Cameron 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, and all BCTF members will be locked out June 27, the last day of the school year for most schools.

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

Cameron replied that most provincial exams are unaffected, and teachers administering English 10 and Social Studies 11 exams on June 24 will be exempted from the lockout so they can mark them.

BCPSEA says the BCTF's wage and benefit demands add up to 21.5% over four years.

"This is almost four times the rate of increase in the current settlements of the other major public sector unions," Marchbank's letter states. "On top of this, the BCTF wants to restore class size and composition formulae that are enormously expensive – in the order of $2 billion annually by year four – despite the fact that educational outcomes have significantly improved since the formulae were removed."

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 others 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.


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