Coast Mountain teachers set to strike Monday, May 26

Teachers had originally planned a one day strike for Thursday, May 29

COAST MOUNTAIN School District students will get a second long weekend in a row thanks to a decision by unionized teachers to advance a planned one-day strike.

Teachers, who have been unsuccessfully bargaining with the province on a new contract, had planned to be on the picket lines here Thursday, May 29 for a one-day strike.

But the school district was told yesterday the strike day is now Monday, May 26.

Although schools will officially be closed and no buses will be running and there will be no scheduled classes, principals, vice principals and other administrators will be on hand should students attend.

“But we are asking parents to find alternate child care arrangements,” said Katherine McIntosh, the newly-hired school superintendent.

A follow up release from the school district said schools will not have adequate levels of supervision on Monday, May 26 to ensure student safety.

“It is the sincere hope of the Board of Education that this dispute will be concluded quickly and that normal school operations will resume as soon as possible,” the release added.

There are no current indications next week’s strike action will be longer than one day, said McIntosh.

Newly arrived in the region, McIntosh has experience in other B.C. school districts when there have been teacher strikes.

“We’ve been through this before. We know what to expect,” she said.

Teachers had already begun limited strike action which, in this district, resulted in not communicating with administrators, the cancellation of recess and later morning class start times.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced a plan earlier this week for rotating strikes around the province after rejecting the offer of a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.

The province had retreated from a proposed 10-year contract to one of six years containing wage hikes of 6.5 per cent.

BCTF president Jim Iker said the bonus doesn’t make up for the government’s wage offer.

Education minister Peter Fassbender said the signing bonus and reducing the contract term from 10 years to six were significant efforts to move toward a settlement.

Teachers say that more money, more teachers and a return to contract language guaranteeing class size and special needs support are needed to reach a settlement.

In addition to Monday’s planned one-day strike, Friday, May 30 is a professional development day for teachers, meaning there will be no classes that day.

Local teachers’ union president Cathy Lambright said teachers will be setting up picket lines at every school in the district on Monday.

Close to 400 teachers are expected to take part in the strike.

And six union members connected with bargaining will be at a province-wide bargaining information session May 30 and June 1 in Vancouver to discuss what might happen next, said Lambright.