Teachers urged to suspend strike
VANCOUVER—British Columbia’s premier yesterday chastised the teachers’ union and urged its members to cast aside strike action, inciting a defensive response from the teachers’ federation.
Christy Clark stood beside her education minister and outlined her view of the steps required to get the situation rolling towards resolution in what was her first public address about the brewing dispute since the strike indefinitely shuttered schools.
“The only ones who can end this strike or suspend it is the teachers’ union,” she told reporters.
“If we really want to put students first and we really care that kids are at the top of the agenda, we’ll all make sure they’re in school tomorrow.”
Clark promised that if the conditions were met, the government would start discussing what she began characterizing as the “single-most important issue” for her, classroom size and composition.
That only could happen if the union ended its bid to obtain benefits in the contract like an extra day off for high school teachers, unlimited massages, and a $5,000 signing bonus, she said.
“As long as we’re there, it makes it impossible for us to get to the things that I think really matter to parents. . . .”
Two hours later, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker accused the government of going to great lengths to make it appear the gap between the sides was a massive gulf.
He vowed strikers would march the lines until they got movement from the government.
Iker said Clark was “mistaken” in her portrayal of the union’s demands, noting several items already had been taken off the table.
He also described the government’s $375-million interim offer for dealing with special needs in the classroom as “status quo” because it only would be used to hire teachers previously laid off due to cuts.
Iker reiterated the union’s proposal for two new multi-million-dollar funds to hire more teachers and deal with grievances as the only way to rectify the problem while saying the union still was willing to bargain on the exact amounts.
“Is fixing a system that’s been underfunded for 12 years expensive? Yes, of course it is,” he told reporters at a news conference, before adding his own jabs.
“But the government needs to rethink its priorities and put kids first,” Iker stressed.
“If they can build a roof on BC Place for half-a-billion dollars or give a private power company in California $750 million, we can afford to invest in our children.”
Teachers mounted rotating strikes for three weeks last May and attempted to heighten pressure with a full-scale strike in June—ejecting half-a-million students from the classroom.
Picketing teachers are getting no strike pay after the union coffers ran dry.
No new talks are scheduled.