Teachers won't cross picket lines
Aug 31, 2013 / 8:48 pm
The head of the BC Teachers’ Federation says his members will respect picket lines if 27,000 of the province’s school support staff go ahead with a full-scale strike that’s been threatened during contract negotiations.
The provincial government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are scheduled to head back to the bargaining table in the next week, just as classes resume after the summer break.
But CUPE, which represents school custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and others, has already stated publicly a strike is a real possibility.
“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in CUPE and support them in trying to get their fair deal for their members,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. “If they feel the need at some point in time to set up picket lines, of course we will respect the lines.”
British Columbia's education minister says he prefers to remain optimistic and won't speculate on what the province might do if negotiations with CUPE fail and teachers refuse to cross picket lines in the event of a strike.
“I believe we can find a solution,” Peter Fassbender said in a statement. “That is my hope. I’m not going to presume anything at this stage. I want to see a school year without any disruption.”
CUPE spokesman Bill Pegler said the union has been trying to secure a deal since November 2012 and is looking for a two per cent increase in each of two years of a collective agreement.
But Fassbender has stated there won’t be any new government money on the table and that wage hikes would need to be funded by the already cash-strapped school boards.
“What I say to parents is this: Our first priority is to get a settlement,” Pegler said. “With any luck we’ll avert a strike.”
The primary issue separating the government and union is wages, and the union has been arguing its members have not seen an increase in more than four years and have been without a contract for more than a year.
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