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Given the lack of progress in negotiations, the BCTF Executive Committee has voted to extend the strike to summer school if a fair settlement that improves learning conditions for students is not reached by June 30, BCTF President Jim Iker said today. Teachers will set up picket lines at worksites where summer school is located.

“Both parties, separated by only 1%, are well within reach of an agreement on wages,” said Iker. “The holdup is now a lack of commitment from government to adequately fund improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers.

“Christy Clark’s 2002 legislation, twice ruled unconstitutional, allowed this government to strip $275 million a year from BC’s education system. The result is 12 years of underfunding that has led BC to become the second worst province on per student funding. It’s time to start closing that gap so we can start a new school year in September with additional funding to properly support BC students.”

In order to get a fair deal for teachers and better support for students, BC teachers are seeking a deal that is based on five key points:
• a five-year term
• a reasonable 8% salary increase plus signing bonus
• no concessions
• an annual workload fund that adequately addresses issues of class size, class composition, and staffing ratios as an interim measure while both parties await the next court ruling
• a retroactive grievances fund, as a resolution to Justice Griffin’s BC Supreme Court decision that retroactively restored the stripped language from 2002. This fund would be used to address other working conditions like preparation time and TTOC compensation improvements, as well as modest improvements to health benefits.

“I still believe that a fair deal is attainable, but getting there will require new movement from government on the critical issues of class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers,” said Iker. “If the government does not come with new funding to reach a fair settlement by June 30, teachers are prepared to extend the strike into summer and picket out summer school. This was not a decision we made lightly, but we cannot allow government to continue to underfund BC’s education system.

“Christy Clark and the employers’ bargaining team must come to mediation with open minds, some flexibility, and willingness to compromise. We’re pleased that exploratory talks between the BCTF and BCPSEA about the way forward and our call for mediation are scheduled for today.”

Background information
According to Ministry of Education data, summer school is offered in 26 of BC’s 60 school districts and about 10% of BC students enrol. This year’s estimate is for 53,600 students.

The BCTF Executive Committee made the decision to extend the strike to summer school should a fair, negotiated deal not be reached by June 30, 2014 during a meeting on June 23.

The government has applied to the Labour Relations Board to vary the essential services order. The BCTF will reply at an upcoming case management meeting.

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).