The first day of a province-wide strike by public school teachers began today in Terrace.
All public schools in the province are taking a turn picketing one day this week with today’s action including Coast Mountains School District.
The strike is an escalation from what was until today a protest limited to the stoppage of student supervision before and after classes, staff meetings and routine written communication with administrators.
Outside of schools around Terrace teachers could be seen taking turns at the picket line, while inside the principals and vice principals were still working.
English teacher Andrew Williams from Caledonia Senior Secondary School said there are several reasons for the strike, not the least of which is the fact that B.C. teachers haven’t seen a pay increase since 2010.
“We have fallen so far behind the other provinces, for myself for example I earn $20,000 less than I would in Ontario or Manitoba,” said Williams, adding that the pay differences vary from teacher to teacher depending on experience and education.
“The entire english department, that’s twelve classes, had a budget of $1,500 last year,” Williams said. “I spend hundreds of dollars myself for material every year. There is no recompense for that.”
An agreement to limit classroom size is another issue, as are technicalities about how student evaluations are done and sick days administered, according to picketers.
The provincial government has responded to the strike by docking teachers’ pay 10 per cent until the end of June, plus the wages for the days missed while striking.
Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Cathy Lambright said she believes the pay deduction would cease if an agreement is reached between the government and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).
The government is offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years. Teachers want 13.7 per cent over four years, according to a report from the Canadian Press.
Lambright added that whether a strike day will happen again next week depends on how the negotiations go.
If there is another strike next week it will happen on a different day, she said.