IT looks as if public schools will remain behind picket lines for a second week as teachers and the government continue their labour dispute.
BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker called Sept. 5 for binding arbitration on wages and benefits saying that if the province agreed, the BCTF would ask its members to vote in favour of going back to work during the arbitration period.
The thorny twin issues of class size and specialized instruction would be left to the courts to decide, said Iker.
The teachers have won two court decisions on class size and composition already which would restore their right to bargain those issues during negotiations.
However, the province has taken the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal and a decision is expected later this year.
Education minister Peter Fassbender didn’t completely reject the idea of binding arbitration but wasn’t warm to it either.
“I’ve never been a fan of binding arbitration,” he said, adding handing over control to a third party risks an outcome that compromises B.C.’s balanced budget and unacceptably damages the province’s finances.
The haggling over binding arbitration took place as local teachers and their supporters staged a march over the noon hour of Sept. 5 from the Elks Hall over the Sande Overpass down Lakelse Ave. and back over the overpass.
Teachers then held a closed-door study session at the Elks Hall where local members of the BCTF discussed their options moving forward in negotiations.
There are 280 teachers within the Coast Mountains School District on strike as of last week and 490 support staff workers affected.
The district also employs 55 people who are in various administrative and other roles who are not teachers and not part of a union bargaining unit.
For each full day of a full strike/lockout the Coast Mountains School District isn’t paying approximately $118,000 in teachers’ wages.
And the school district isn’t paying approximately $35,000 each day to its employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who aren’t crossing picket lines.
But under a contract ratified in August, those CUPE members are being compensated for wages lost by not crossing picket lines.
The compensation package was backdated to May, the start of teacher job action, and for May and June, the total paid to CUPE members was $453,000.
In July and August, when there was more limited teacher picket activity, affected CUPE members were paid $24,000 for lost wages.
Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Cathy Lambright says yesterday’s march attendance displayed broad support for the public teachers from colleges and universities as well from other unions such as Canadian Union of Public Employees.
“We have pretty decent support,” said Lambright.