British Columbia Teachers Still Striking After 12 Years

British Columbia is experiencing a teachers' strike that is affecting many people in myriad ways.  The Huffington Post, Canada reports that a school psychologist was docked pay as was every striking teacher, even though he had worked 70 hours of unpaid overtime helping counsel students after the canoeing deaths of four youths, along with an accidental student overdose and the death of a student's parent.

Tod Kettner wrote to Premier Christy Clark expressing his disbelief that 10% of his check had been taken out for a scheduled strike day. British Columbia is holding rotating strike days because of a contract dispute which has been going on for 12 years.. The school board issued Kettner an exemption.

Thousands of students have encouraged each other to "walk out" of class on Wednesday, to protest the labor dispute, reports Alexandra Posadki of The Globe and Mail. The idea was spearheaded by Victoria Baker, using Facebook. The 12th-grader says she is getting tired of missing out on class time.

"We're not taking sides," Baker said. "We just want to say that we're tired of being stuck in the middle of the dispute between the BCTF and the government, and we'd really like them to come together and reach an agreement sooner rather than later."

She's also concerned about whether her commencement ceremony, which is scheduled for two weeks from now, will go ahead as planned. "Everyone's getting tired of all the unknowns," she said.

The longer the strike continues, the more students are worried about their grades dropping because of the distraction. Ninth-grader Adam Dobrer wishes that students could be included around the bargaining table.

Cameron Fox, a 12th-grader stated that "students do not want to be complicit pawns in the battle between the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government". Other students just want the strike to be over.

Parents, too, are concerned and continue to look for ways to solve this on-going dilemma. A small group met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender in Victoria last Wednesday.

Ramona Chu, a mother of three from Coquitlam, says that both sides are at fault for the deadlock, according to Justine Hunter, writing for The Globe and Mail. Chu has seen services for students being cut (music, libraries, and speech pathology, for example).

Another mother, Stacey MacLennan, is concerned that students who are living in poverty are being harmed by this prolonged dispute. The consensus among parents is to keep the students first.

"We are not protesting any group. We are here for our children. We need government, teachers and everyone involved in the system to stop for a moment – let's all take responsibility."

It could be that many British Columbian parents, teachers, union officers, and government officials have lost sight of the initial cause of teachers striking. Rob Shaw, writing for the Vancouver Sun, presents a timeline of the on-going battle.

In 2001, British Columbia Liberal government passed a legislation that limited teachers' ability to strike.

The union, BCTF, stated that it perceived that school boards were altering teachers' contracts by targeted provisions and changing wording in the agreement that had been made as to appropriate class size.

With 91.4% of teachers voting yes, they decided to strike. In 2002, teachers received a 7.5% salary increase over three years, but provincial funding was discontinued for the three years.

When the government stripped the BCTF of its ability to bargain class size and the composition of classes (later struck down by the British Columbia Supreme Court), teachers walked off the job for one day.

Three years later the government decides that both sides are at an impasse, Liberals legislate three years of zero-wage increases; teachers walk off for 10 days; a mediator convinces them to go back to classes; teachers return to work. Still, no agreement has been reached.

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