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Teachers' job action appears unlikely

Talk of job action was noticeably absent from a speech the president of the BC Teachers Federation gave during the union's annual meeting Saturday.

Jim Iker reiterated the union's commitment to fight for smaller class sizes, more specialist teachers and better wages.

He commended the union's 89 per cent strike vote but did not say if and when any action would happen.

"We didn't take the idea of taking a strike vote very lightly," Iker told reporters later. "The last thing we want to do is engage in any kind of job action if we do not have to."

Iker says talks will resume in April.

As of now, it is unclear if any progress has been made on negotiations.

"We have differences," was all Iker would say.

Iker says teachers have made a salary proposal that the government is reviewing.

"It will help close the gap between our colleagues across Canada and ourselves," Iker said.

The union has said that B.C. teachers are underpaid compared to those in other provinces.

Statistics Canada reports in 2010 that the minimum annual starting wage for a B.C. teacher was $41,963, while in Alberta, the same wage was $53,838 and the starting wage in Ontario was $42,030.

The ongoing dispute between the province and the teachers has been a bitter one — a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in January that legislation removing class size from contract negotiations was unconstitutional and awarded the teachers' union $2 million.

The ruling ordered that class size limits, maximums on the number of special needs students, and specialist teacher staffing levels be restored to 2002 levels, when the teachers' union first launched a court challenge.

The province is appealing the ruling.

The teachers have been without a contract since last June.

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