Chilliwack teachers preparing for 'stick-it' lines

Monday will be the first day of a three-day, full-swing strike for teachers.

Nearly 28,000 B.C. Teachers' Federation members voted yes to the strike option out of the 32,209 who voted over a two-day period last week after the B.C. government tabled back-to-work legislation.

Nearly 9,000 teachers did not vote, and more than 10 per cent or 4,263 voted against strike action.

Katharin Midzain, president of the Chilliwack Teachers' Association, was encouraged by the 87 per cent in-favour vote.

"I think it's encouraging that so many teachers had voted to show this government that their actions are so reprehensible that we can't allow them to continue to go on," said Midzain.

As per the Labour Relations Board's ruling, teachers are not allowed to wear placards and set up a picket line, as they can't stand in the way of other union employees entering school facilities. However, they can be out in front of schools with signs on sticks.

Some teachers are calling it "stick-it" lines.

Midzain believes a three-day strike will make a difference for teachers.

"I think anything makes a difference when you take a collective stand that says you can't do this to us, you can't do this to workers, you can't do this to students in the schools," said Midzain.

In the same token, she doesn't believe the strike will hurt students.

"The students I think won't lose in three days, or one day, what they're losing already," she said. "They've lost 10 years already. They're losing with this legislation every day they go to school. So what's a couple days of being out of school?"

Chilliwack superintendent Michael Audet disagreed.

"Every hour of instruction is important," he said. "The first thing a strike does is shut down instruction for kids. It puts student achievement and instruction on hold. It means that instructional time will not be happening during those three days."

The B.C. government began debate Thursday on legislation that would extend the current teacher pay and benefits for another six months, while a mediator works with the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association in an effort to find common ground on class sizes, special needs support and other issues.

Because the legislation, which would impose heavy fines on the teachers' union and its members for strikes during that six-month period, has not yet been passed, the teacher strike, which will run Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday next week, is not an illegal strike.

Chilliwack schools, while open during the strike, will be closed to students due to limited supervision.

The Chilliwack school district has posted a letter to parents on its website and sent a letter home to students informing them of the situation.

~ With files from Tom Fletcher

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