Unless a new contract with teachers is hammered out over the weekend, B.C. public schools may be closed for the final two weeks of the session.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation announced Thursday its members will be off the job Monday for a “study session” to assess the union’s latest contract proposal or a tentative agreement, and may then move to a full strike Tuesday if no deal is in place.
“We have significant moves to place on the table and we’re willing to hunker down over the weekend and get this done so we can get back to work next week,” said Leslea Woodward, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.
“This was a very difficult decision to go to a full strike.”
If a deal isn’t reached, students in elementary and middle schools will get a head start on summer holidays.
Senior students, however, will still be able to write provincial exams, after the Labour Relations Board ruled that administering and marking the tests is an essential service that teachers must provide.
Teachers, who have already staged three weeks of rotating strikes, have been without a contract since June 2013.
The government’s latest offer featured a 7.25 per cent wage increase over six years, plus a $1,200 signing bonus if they come to terms by June 30. Teachers countered with a 9.75 per cent pay hike over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments.
Penticton MLA Dan Ashton urged both his Liberal government and teachers to bargain hard.
“You don’t settle disputes from picket lines, you settle disputes by negotiating,” he said.
“When both parties are unhappy, it’s probably a good deal, but you settle that dispute by being at a negotiating table.”
Ashton also noted, “I’ve got two kids that are both in the public school system, and it affects them, so I want this settled as quick as anybody does.”