While B.C. teachers have no imminent strike plans, they are looking to raise awareness that they have been without a deal since last school year.
Denise Wood, Nanaimo-Ladysmith union local president, said negotiations between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association started up again Wednesday, with more dates scheduled throughout March.
An early-February e-mail from the BCTF stated the union is currently 100 per cent committed to mediation and Wood said the union is currently focusing on public and political advocacy and promoting the #RedForBCEd campaign. Most recently, teachers lined the side of Island Highway, by Country Club Centre in Nanaimo, on Wednesday afternoon with signs meant to tell a story.
“For us in Nanaimo, you’re going to see teachers outside of their schools … one day a week, staging what we call a ‘walk-in.’ They’re out in front of their school, with signs, wearing red and then walking into schools at the bell, ready to start the day,” said Wood. “Teachers in Nanaimo are wearing red on Fridays to show our support for public education and highlight the fact that public education is being under-funded.”
Wood hopes a new contract will include salary increases and address issues pertaining to recruitment and retention.
“The minister likes to say that it’s only northern districts, as though it’s OK that it’s happening in northern districts. It’s not OK that it’s happening anywhere. It’s happening in the Lower Mainland, it’s happening on the Island,” said Wood. “We have failures to fill in Nanaimo every day, so what that means is that we have a teacher who’s absent and there’s no teacher on call to cover them and so then what happens is other teachers are redirected from the job they’re supposed to be doing to cover for absent teachers and that just makes for a system that is barely holding it together.”
In an e-mail, the Ministry of Education said it is aware that the parties have a number of dates scheduled with mediator David Schaub this month.
“We are pleased that both sides remain in contact with the mediator and hope they will come to a negotiated agreement,” the ministry said.
If there were to be a strike, a provincewide vote would be required and there is no plan to set a date for a vote at this time, the BCTF said.