Another round of school strikes

Students in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows out Thursday.

Teachers will again be on strike in Maple Ridge on Thursday, and the rest of the school year could be lost as job action threatens to escalate.

Teachers across the province took a full strike vote on Monday and Tuesday. Results were to be  announced Wednesday morning.

With the requirement that the B.C. Teachers Federation give its employer 72 hours strike notice, the earliest a full strike could commence would be Monday.

“It’s always hard to predict, but I expect it’s going to be a pretty strong ‘yes’ vote,” Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said Tuesday.

The most immediate effect would be to final exams for high school students, and whether year-end report cards will be filled out and issued.

The government has applied to the Labour Relations Board to have final exams for Grades 10-12 and report cards declared essential services. The application to the LRB says without final grades, graduating students would be ineligible for scholarships, and might not meet admission requirements to post-secondary institutions.

“The lockout is having a huge impact on report cards,” noted Serra.

Teachers are not to be in school 45 minutes before or after the work day begins, and are not to work during lunch hour. Serra said that has made it difficult for teachers to finish assessing students.

The local school board is in a holding pattern, waiting for strike notice from teachers, and the ruling by the LRB.

Most schools around the province are set to break for the summer on June 27, so only about nine schools days would be missed.

However, a strike could interrupt instruction at Kanaka Creek elementary, which operates under a balanced calendar and is scheduled to be in session throughout July.

Summer school could also be halted by a strike. The government has said it would lift its lockout, because summer school is critical for students who need to catch up before September. However, there’s no guarantee the BCTF would lift its strike, noted Serra.

A strike could also hit next year’s local school board budget.

The district runs international education programs over the summer, and is still gauging the effects job action will have there. Attracting international students to register for the school year has become an important revenue source for the district, with 500 and 600 students bringing in approximately $6 million in student fees annually.

Teachers started limited job action on April 23, pulling back some duties. On May 26, a second stage meant rotating strikes closed each school one day per week.

The employer locked out teachers in conjunction with the rotating strikes and the B.C. Labour Relations Board subsequently ruled it was within its rights to chop teachers’ pay by 10 per cent.

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2013. Wages and classroom conditions are the major issues.

Last week, the union reduced its wage demands from a 15.9 per cent increase over four years to 14 per cent over four years, including increases for the cost of living.

The government is offering 7.25 per cent over six years plus $1,200 signing bonus, if a deal is reached by the end of the school year.


– with files from Canadian Press