Job action creates uncertainty for K-12 students

June 11, 2014

K-12 students in BC are anxious to know how ongoing job action could affect their university admissions; meanwhile, the teachers’ union in Ontario is taking steps that some fear are signs that job action is on the horizon there, as well. BC’s teachers launched rotating strikes on May 26, and will vote this week on whether or not they will escalate to a full strike. If the vote passes, teachers could be off the job just as students will be writing their final exams. Further job action could also affect summer classes. The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) remain far apart in their negotiations on major issues including wages, class size, and class composition. In Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) released a memo indicating that its members would receive three-quarters pay in the event of a strike. Some say that this signals the union is preparing for battle with the province. The OSSTF’s current contract expires in August, and neither the Liberal nor the Conservative parties’ platforms allocated funds to increasing teacher salaries. Globe and Mail (BC) | Globe and Mail (Ontario)

Postscript: June 11, 2014

Teachers in British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly in favour of escalating their job action to a full-scale strike. 86% of BC’s teachers voted in favour of the action, which could close schools as early as Monday. The vote saw one of the highest turnouts in BC Teachers’ Federation History. “With this vote, BC teachers have sent a very strong message to Christy Clark and her government; it’s time to negotiate in good faith, put new funding on the table, and reach a fair deal with teachers that also provides better support for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. Both the BCTF and BC Premier Christy Clark expressed hope that a deal could be reached in time to avert a full strike. The teachers still have to provide 72-hours notice before escalating their walkout. Vancouver Sun | CBC | National Post | Globe and Mail

Postscript: September 19, 2014

Students in British Columbia will be returning to class on Monday after 86% of the province’s teachers voted to accept a 6-year agreement with the provincial government. The deal includes a 7.25% wage increase, a one-time “signing bonus,” more jobs for teachers, improvements to benefits, allowances for preparation time for elementary school teachers, and a raise for teachers on call. The BC Teachers’ Federation begrudgingly accepted the job offer, which negotiators admitted was “not nearly enough.” Class size and composition remain points of contention, even after the agreement. The BC government will still go ahead with appeals of 2 court cases that ruled against its removal of class size and composition provisions from the collective agreement. Should the court restore these provisions, the sides will resume bargaining. Students missed a total of 5 weeks of classes as a result of the job action. Vancouver Sun | Globe and Mail