Teachers vote tonight on escalating to full-scale strike

Nanaimo teachers are currently voting on whether to step up strike action in their labour dispute with the province, with results expected tonight (Tuesday).

While there are more negotiations this week, the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled last week that a provincially proposed 10-per cent wage cut can proceed, something that didn’t sit well with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and its locals.

According to Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president Mike Ball, teachers will vote on whether to escalate action up to and including full withdrawal of services. While a provincewide strike is an option, teachers could opt for expansion of current one-day rotating strikes. The Nanaimo school district’s next strike is Wednesday (June 11).

Ball thinks teachers will vote in favour of a full walkout, and if there is such a mandate, a decision will be made by union executives rather quickly on which direction to go.

“The executive committee will meet later [tonight] and decide how they’re going to proceed,” Ball said. “You’ll probably know [Wednesday] because if they escalate, they would have to give 72 hours’ notice to the employer, which would be the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to the following Monday should there be an escalation.”

Like other rotating strike days, the Nanaimo school district is asking parents to keep children home tomorrow. Donna Reimer, district spokeswoman, said contingency plans are being made in the event graduation ceremonies and exams are affected.

“It’s really our goal for those ceremonies to go ahead and we’re feeling that we have made plans that will allow them to go ahead,” Reimer said. “Mainly we’ve scheduled them off school sites ... if teachers aren’t available to assist, we will deploy other staff.”

Graduation ceremonies will take place at the Port Theatre with principals, vice-principals and district staff assisting if necessary.

As for final exams, Reimer said it will depend on how the teachers’ vote goes.

Teachers and students aren’t the only ones being affected as education support workers are honouring picket lines and losing wages.

“Anytime you take a day’s pay away from some of these people, because there are some single mothers, low earners because of the hours they work in the school district, it is an impact,” said Rob Zver, CUPE Local 606 president. “They are faced with layoffs at the end of the year and at this time of the year, it’s even harder to try to save for those things.”

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