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Chilliwack teachers to join strike vote

If B.C. teachers vote in favour of going on strike, students will not be immediately affected, said the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president.

“What we want out of the strike vote obviously is what every union wants: to increase pressure,” said CTA president Katharin Midzain.

The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) announced earlier this week that if no progress is made in collective bargaining in the next two weeks, the union will hold a strike vote between June 24 and June 28.

If passed, job action could begin on September 6, the first day of school.

The first phase of the strike would include a reduction in administrative and ministry mandated services, such as supervision at recess and before and after school supervision. Teachers would also not attend any administrative meetings, and if job action continued into November, report cards would not be distributed.

In-classroom and extracurricular activities, however, will not be affected, said Midzain.

“We will still be teaching and teachers will still meet with parents when they feel they need to. The communication with parents will be ongoing according to what the teacher feels is needed, but it won’t be ministry mandated and it won’t be administration mandated.”

Collective bargaining between the BCTF, provincial government and local school boards began in March.

Critical of the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) for “stalling” the BCTF is seeking improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions, including class size and composition, a reduction in case loads, more class preparation time and improved learning specialist ratios.

With the pressure of a strike vote, “we’re really just looking at making the public and negotiating teams understand that we do have serious issues and we need to be listened to,” said Midzain.

“We’re standing up for teachers because when we do, we’re also standing up for students.”

However, BCPSEA disagrees that job action is necessary to spur talks as 15 bargaining meetings have been scheduled.

“It’s disappointing to have talk of a strike and job action when bargaining, per se, hasn’t really taken hold, and you have to question is this more of a positioning exercise and political exercise than a bargaining one,” said Hugh Finlayson, CEO of the employers’ association.

Finlayson said it’s possible a contract resolution could be reached by the end of June but only if both sides “put their attention to bargaining.”

The current contract, which was negotiated in 2006, expires on June 30.

~with files from Diane Strandberg

kbartel@theprogress.com

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