BRITISH COLUMBIA â€” Following teachers voting 89 per cent in favour of striking this week, BCTF President Jim Iker confirmed Friday there was no timeline as to when job action would be taking place.
â€œWe have no timelines, we didnâ€™t take the decision to hold a strike vote lightly and we wonâ€™t take the decision to start job action lightly,â€ Iker told the Now the day after the vote results were announced. â€œWe have 90 days to start our action and I hope we have a deal at the end of the year and come September, our students will have smaller class sizes and more access to specialist teachers, but weâ€™ll look at the progress at the bargaining tableâ€
Surrey Teacher Association President Jennifer Wadge said the vote results showed how strongly teachers feel about the current state of bargaining.
â€œObviously 89 per cent is a very strong mandate and we knew that was going to happen, itâ€™s not a surprise,â€ she said.
While numbers are not released on a per-district basis, Wadge said teachers in Surrey, the provinceâ€™s largest district, were of the same opinion.
â€œFrom my talking to teachers in Surrey, they really felt the time was right for a vote and they wanted to give the provincial bargaining team a strong mandate to take to the table,â€ she said. â€œIt also puts pressure on government to take all the concessions theyâ€™ve tabled off of the table and remove the vision for a 10 year agreement.â€
In a conference call early Friday, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the province would be willing to look at a shorter agreement, so long as certain provisions were secured.
â€œWe want a long terms settlement that avoids this kind of uncertainty for students and parents, for us as government long-term stability is the goal,â€ said Fassbender. â€œBut itâ€™s the contents of the deal that is going to be important, the length is not a problem if you have enough details within the agreement that allows for the protection of both parties.â€
However, Fassbender said nothing would come of that until the BCTF tabled what he called a â€œcomprehensive proposalâ€
â€œUntil we get an offer and full proposal from the BCTF, itâ€™s very difficult to move anywhere,â€ he said.
When asked what they were bringing to the table, Iker said the BCTF had tabled a three-year deal looking at a cost of living increase each year as well as market adjustments to bring B.C. teacher pay in line with other provinces in Canada. While Iker said there wasnâ€™t a number attached to those requests, when the BCTF was bargaining in 2012, they tabled a three year agreement requesting an annual three per cent cost of living increase as well as a further three per cent increase in market adjustments over years two and three.
Finally, when asked why itâ€™s taken a year to get just one offer on the table, Fassbender said it wasnâ€™t due to lack of trying.
â€œI canâ€™t answer that for you, weâ€™ve been asking the BCTF to put their offer on the table this whole time,â€ said Fassbender, noting that there have been a number of roadblocks over the past year, such as changing negotiators and the summer. â€œThe bottom line is, we have said consistently we want to stay and negotiate but the BCTF needs to come to the table.â€