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Nanaimo teachers start rotating strikes

At an impasse with the B.C. government at the bargaining table, teachers in B.C. will begin rotating strikes, with Nanaimo district teachers set to picket on Tuesday (May 27).

Schools will be open but there won’t be instruction and buses won’t run, Dave Hutchinson, school district CEO and superintendent, said in a letter to parents. He asked parents to keep children home for safety reasons. School will resume as usual on Wednesday (May 28).

Mike Ball, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the move from the first stage of job action, which included limited supervision and no contact with administration, is due to a combination of factors.

“The lack of progress at the table has triggered the escalation to Phase 2 but because their wage offer is significantly lower than our proposal and they’re not dealing with class size and composition at all, that has caused a lack of progress, which has triggered the escalation,” Ball said.

Negotiations are set for today and tomorrow (May 22-23), meaning there will be opportunities to avert next week’s strikes, according to Ball.

“Part of the reason of not having the escalation until next week, it throws it back to government to say, Look, you’ve got two days to fix this. If you’re really serious about a fair deal and improving public education, you’ve got two days to fix it.

“Come to the table with more resources and resolve the issues and bargain class size and composition,” Ball said, adding that there are more negotiation dates booked between now and the end of the month.

Negotiating would continue despite the strike, he said.

Peter Fassbender, B.C. Minister of Education, said the province has made “significant” concessions to move toward a settlement, reducing contract length from 10 to six years and offering a $1,200 signing bonus.

“Unfortunately the announcement [Monday] says that the [teachers’ union] feels that disrupting classrooms, affecting children and their families is going to help to reach a settlement,” Fassbender said to reporters in Vancouver.

Teachers made concessions with their last proposal, according to Ball. He said teachers reduced their request for cost of living allowance and wage increase, while offering a four-year deal with the province.

“It was a significant move from our last proposal,” Ball said. “It’s just a case of whether the government can move also.”

Rotating strikes will occur at B.C. school districts until Thursday (May 29) and any further action will depend on progress at the negotiating table, said Ball.

The third stage, a province-wide strike, would require another teachers’ union vote and there would have to be two working days’ notice to employers.

The school district recommends checking its website, at www.sd68.bc.ca, its Facebook page and Twitter feed (@sd68bc) for up-to-date information.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

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