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Teachers' union calls strike vote

Don't worry yet parents.

That's the message Chilliwack Teachers' Association president Clint Johnston had in light of yesterday's announcement of a teacher strike vote.

In a news conference held Tuesday morning, the BC Teachers' Federation announced teachers would be taking a strike vote next week on March 4, 5, and 6.

After a full year of bargaining and more than 40 sessions at the table, the union called the strike vote to increase pressure on the government.

They cited major concession demands, an unfair salary offer, and a deliberately confrontational attempt to reverse the recent B.C. Supreme Court decision on class size, composition and staffing levels.

The strike vote, however, is just the first step.

"Our strike vote does not imply, in any way, that in short order the schools are going to be closed down," said Johnston.

The union's staged action plan doesn't involve immediate school closures or disruptions for students.

"We really plan to start minimally," said Johnston. "We're not even asking teachers to stop extra-curricular activities this time … and it's not going to affect report card communication."

The strike vote is more about increasing pressure at the bargaining table.

According to BCTF, the government has offered a wage increase of 0.5 per cent at ratification that's not retroactive. That means the union will have been without an increase for four years.

As well, the government has proposed new language the union said would again remove provisions on class size, class composition and staffing levels for teacher-librarians, counsellors, special education and other specialist teachers despite the recent Supreme Court ruling.

After a year of unsuccessful negotiations, BCTF believes the strike vote is necessary.

"This is really a move to show BCPSEA and the government that we're serious about this and we don't feel like we're being treated fairly," said Johnston.

If teachers vote in favour of striking, the union has 90 days to activate job action.

The last time the union held a strike vote was in 2012, which had 87 per cent in favour. Teachers walked out for the three days the following Monday.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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