BCTF president Jim Iker visits Matthew McNair Secondary in Richmond

B.C. teachers run out of cash as strike vote nears

Strike fund dry on eve of vote for full-scale walkout: B.C. teachers' union memo

  • Jun. 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – As British Columbia’s unionized teachers ponder whether to follow their leadership into a full-scale walkout, the union has admitted its war chest is empty and it won’t be able to dole out more strike pay.

The fund from which the union draws cash to subsidize teachers on the picket lines has been depleted and it can’t cover an escalating strike, states a memo on the union’s internal website.

The Collective Bargaining Defence Fund had enough money to finance up to three days of pay for rotating strikes, said the document that answers questions about the escalation vote. But it’s unable to cover additional strike days “that may well be necessary in order to achieve a collective agreement.”

Teachers will be paid $50 per day for rotating strikes, which have taken place one day per week for the past two weeks and are planned to carry forward through next week.

The teachers will be at work next Monday and rotating strikes will be held Tuesday through Friday.

“There is no doubt that the costs associated with continually fending off attacks on teacher rights and the collective agreement are high, but the cost of not doing so are far worse,” reads the memo dated June 4 and posted in the B.C. Teachers’ Federation internal website.

The prospect of a full-scale strike donned Wednesday, after the union announced it will ask teachers to support a withdrawal of all services in a vote this coming Monday and Tuesday. If a majority approves, the teachers are legally obligated to give three days notice.

A spokesman for the union wouldn’t provide further information about the pay situation, only saying the BCTF is in the process of informing its members ahead of the vote. Some other public-sector unions don’t pay their members until at least day four of a strike, he noted.

The memo explains the strike fund has been exhausted as a result of 12 years “defending teachers’ rights,” which has included court battles with the government over the removal of classroom size and composition provisions from the bargaining process.

Teachers were starting to feel the stress and become ill as the conflict intensified, said one teacher in Surrey, B.C., who asked to remain anonymous.

“Moral is not good,” he said, but added he expects a majority of teachers to vote for further job action.

Regardless of whether schools are shut, the education minister pledged on Thursday that final exams will be marked and grades will be distributed to all of B.C.’s graduating students.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday that the government will take “whatever steps” necessary to ensure critical studies are completed.

“The commitment, without any hesitation, is they will be able to finish their year, their exams, the marking of those exams — and that is not something that will be open to discussion,” he told reporters.

Details hadn’t yet been cemented, Fassbender said.

The union earlier this week reduced its wage demands to about 12 per cent over four years, according to a spokesman, while the employer has offered a 7.3 per cent hike over six years.

A government spokesman, however, said its own math on the union’s demand puts the proposal at 14.7 per cent when compounded, or closer to about 19 per cent when other compensation costs are factored in.

The contract expired one year ago.

The parties were engaging in bargaining talks again Thursday, and Fassbender said the government is in no rush to legislate teachers back to work.

Student Mati Cormier said she blames both sides for the conflict and doesn’t believe either is looking at the bigger picture.

“It’s really tough when everyone is saying we might have another strike,” said the 14 year old, who attends Ideal Mini School in Vancouver.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. I want consistency with school and education, I want to be able to learn without being scared of what’s going to happen next week.”

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Gas venting from tanker at Castlegar rail yard posed no danger: officials

Argon gas discharged from a CP tanker car on Friday, April 19.

Carfentanil found for first time in Castlegar

Killer opiod found in local illegal drug market

Rossland’s Seven Summits school gets grant to grow global presence

Centre for Learning hopes to triple the number of international students it has

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

Rossland skiier places third at U19 Canadian Ski Cross

Rossland’s Sage Stefani finished out a successful season.

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

WATCH: South Vancouver Island shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident, say police

One person in custody, another fled following shooting and crash on West Shore

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man accused in daughters’ murder

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Most Read