Creston students likely to be out of school next week, as province-BCTF dispute continues

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  • Aug. 26, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Negotiators from the province and BC Teachers’ Federation have been quiet in recent days, but no sign of a resolution that would see schools open next week was evident at press time.

Jeff Jones, School District No. 8 (Kootenay lake) superintendent and CEO, says that the scheduled start to the school year on Sept. 2 seems unlikely.

“Unfortunately, although we continue to remain hopeful that a negotiated settlement will be reached between the BCTF and the ministry, school startup for this September is anything but business as usual — even if we do have the opportunity to start on time,” he said yesterday. “We are hoping for a September start, but that becomes less and less of a reality as time marches on.”

Teachers returned to the picket lines today at Creston Valley schools, the Creston Education Centre and the bus garage.

“I am hearing from people all over who are very supportive,” Creston Valley Teachers’ Association president Rebecca Blair said yesterday. “People understand our concerns over class size and composition.”

Blair said the stalemate at the bargaining table stems from a dozen years ago, when the provincial government tore up an existing labour contract with teachers and imposed new terms that removed their right to negotiate class size and composition. Two court rulings have since ruled in favour of teachers and the issue is currently before the BC Court of Appeals, with a decision expected sometime this fall.

“Our local has been calling for a focus on class size and composition since 2002,” Blair said. “We even went up against the BCTF and voted against a contract to express our concerns.”

A promise from Premier Christy Clark to give parents of students under 13 $40 dollars a day while the strike continues hasn’t helped negotiations, Blair said.

“It’s just so harebrained,” she said. “It’s simply an attempt to undermine the bargaining process.”

To date, only teachers are affected by the strike, Jones said.

“There have been no layoffs as a result of the strike,” he said. “We continue to receive operating funds. Eighty percent of strike ‘savings’ (salaries for teaching staff during the strike) are returned to the ministry. The district will keep 20 per cent of those ‘savings’. Through our normal budgeting processes the board will decide how best to allocate those resources.”