UPDATED: Full-scale B.C. teachers’ strike set for Tuesday

NANAIMO – Teachers could be on a full-scale strike as early as next week.

Despite bargaining throughout the weekend, a deal had yet to be announced Monday morning to avert a full-scale strike from teachers in B.C. this week.

Nanaimo teachers participated in a study session Monday and held rallies throughout Nanaimo school district. Schools were expected to be behind picket lines Tuesday (June 17).

B.C. teachers’ union members gave a clear mandate for the strike with 86 per cent voting in favour of job action escalation earlier in the week.

Mike Ball, Nanaimo union local president, told the News Bulletin that teachers have requested that government make itself available for bargaining into the weekend and proposals were exchanged Friday night.

Ball said the union has made concessions in its latest proposal, with what he calls a “significant reductions.”

“The proposal that we’ll put in front of government will be one that should make them think twice rather than just saying, ‘No,’” Ball said. “ So we’re hopeful that they’ll look at it seriously this time instead of their usual ‘No’ and we’ll actually bargain and try to come to a deal to avoid any further escalation.”

Despite talks continuing throughout the weekend, no deal was reached as the two side remain far apart on wage increases and classroom composition.

In a letter addressed to parents, John Blain, Nanaimo school district deputy superintendent, is asking parents to keep their children home Monday and Tuesday, as buses won’t be running and teachers will not be working. There won’t be adequate supervision, he said.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled that final marks for Grade 12 students must be submitted by June 20 and exams for Grades 10 to 12 must go ahead. There will be a special entrance at each school in order not to interfere with picket lines and Ball said teachers will not attempt to block any students taking exams.

Graduation ceremonies will take place between June 25-26 at the Port Theatre.

Given the uncertain length of the strike, Blain asked students to bring home all personal belongings tomorrow (June 13). If there is a fast resolution to the dispute, classes will resume as previously scheduled.

The given latest developments there will likely be inconvenience for parents given the early start to the summer.

Stephanie Higginson, a stay-at-home mother and former teacher, whose son is a Grade 1 student at Woodbank Primary School, said she felt a bit rushed because of the work stoppage but feels it is necessary.

“I think it’s worth the sacrifice,” Higginson said. “I really think that this government has been just attacking public education since they were elected and someone needs to stand up to them.”

Greg Millbank will be able to look after his grandson Alex Martin, a student at Ecole Oceane, during the strike but said it isn’t a good situation.

“It’s horribly unfortunate and it’s too bad it came down to this,” he said.

Blain said updates will be provided via the school district website, www.sd68.bc.ca, Facebook page and Twitter account, @sd68bc.

The Nanaimo News Bulletin will provide regular updates on teacher job action.