By Steve Hubrecht & Nicole Trigg

Pioneer Staff

As of The Pioneers press deadline on Wednesday, May 21st, teachers across the province are set to start one-day rotating strikes this coming Monday. The rotating strikes mean different school districts will be striking on different days of the week. In the local Rocky Mountain School District 6, teachers will be striking on Monday, May 26th along with eight other B.C. school districts, then will be back to work for the rest of the week.

We will be picketing the schools, something the teachers arent looking forward to, but at the same time (they) understand what its all about, said Windermere Teacher Association president Doug Murray. We all hope that something can be solved by Monday but everybody who Ive talked to has said theyre not holding their breath.

Protracted contract negotiations between the BC Teachers Federation and the B.C. government have been centred on the issues of class size, class composition (including support for special needs students) and teachers pay. The teachers union began low-level job action in April refusing supervision outside classrooms and communication with management and then announced the rotating strikes on Tuesday, May 20th in response to unfair wage demands and an unwillingness to offer any improvements to students learning conditions, stated a BCTF press release. The province has threatened to cut teachers pay by five per cent in response to the strike.

Unfortunately, the announcement today says that the BCTF feels that disrupting classrooms, affecting children and their families is going to help to reach a settlement, said Education Minister Peter Fassbender on May 20th.

Unfortunately, the province has steadfastly refused to table any improvements to class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers, said BC Teachers Federation President Jim Iker in a release. Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students learning conditions, in BC Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.

While picketing local schools as well as the school board office in two shifts (a morning and afternoon one), striking teachers will take care not to disrupt the college (attached to David Thompson Secondary School) and the daycare centre next to the school board office, said Mr. Murray.

Its all for solidarity, he said, adding Canadian Union of Public Employees members (administrative assistants and maintenance staff at schools) are likely to join the protest as they arent expected to cross teachers picket lines, and that parents and other residents are also welcome to join as well.

The government blames us but the courts have been on our side for everything… its $1,000 per child that were underfunding compared with the Canadian average and to me thats really telling, said Mr. Murray, adding that teachers pay in B.C. is lower than all other provinces with the exception of Prince Edward Island.

Theyre not keeping up and theyre blaming everything on the economy and different things, but they find money for their projects that they think are important, he said.

The rotating strike will continue beyond next week if bargaining remains stalled, said Mr. Murray, and different days of the week will be assigned to Rocky Mountain School District teachers on an ongoing basis. The school district has sent letters home to parents advising them to make alternate arrangements for Monday, May 26th.