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Strike action will depend on bargaining

While a recent vote by B.C. teachers saw a majority favouring a strike, job action will be tied to the negotiating table, according to teachers’ union executives.

About 89 per cent – 26,053 teachers out of 29,301 who voted – said yes to strike action. The result gives teachers a 90-day window to activate a strike, but no timeline has been set for when, or if, it will begin.

Shannon Iverson, first vice-president with Nanaimo District Teachers Association, said the strike vote was a strategy to apply pressure on the government at the bargaining table and negotiations would be the determining factor. If necessary, the strike plan would see three phases: refusal of communication with administrators (unless an emergency situation involved students), rotating strikes across the province and finally a full strike, if mandated by another strike vote.

“We’re hoping that we don’t have to even go to the first phase,” said Iverson.

Phase 1, if it were to be implemented, would not occur until spring break concluded across the province, she said.

In a teleconference, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he respected that the strike vote was one of the tools of collective bargaining and that the government’s position is to continue the negotiations. He said the province tabled a preliminary offer but has yet to see a comprehensive offer from the teachers’ union.

Class size and composition are on the table, Fassbender said.

“They have characterized our offer as being not appropriate and we appreciate that may be their starting position but it’s very difficult to negotiate when the other party hasn’t put their full offer on the table and [B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim] Iker has been quoted as saying that they’ve had their offer on the table since March.

“That is clearly not the case but more importantly, we’re urging them to come to the table in the other days moving forward to get down to serious negotiations and to see if we can find a negotiated solution,” Fassbender said.

When asked about Fassbender’s comments, Iverson said while she was not on the negotiation team, she has full confidence in the teachers’ federation in that the team has bargained in a fair and open manner with the interests of all teachers and students in mind.

She said the last offer from the province was insulting and it offered two more years without a significant wage increase.

“The offer is not in line with offers that they have negotiated and signed with other public sector unions,” Iverson said. “It seems that teachers have been singled out from other negotiations and fair deal bargaining.”

The Nanaimo school district did not want to comment about the strike vote but said it would continue to monitor the strike vote and relay any pertinent information to parents.

“Until then, it is school operations as usual,” said spokeswoman Donna Reimer.

Negotiations are scheduled for today and tomorrow (March 11-12).

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