Strike putting financial strain on local teachers; Food Share program organized to help
While B.C. Education minister Peter Fassbender came out Monday telling reporters in Victoria he’s living in the time-loop comedy Groundhog Day, members on the picket line in Nelson are dealing with the reality of not getting a pay cheque as the teachers’ strike enters its second week of the new school year without classes.
To help those struggling with finances, some teachers have set up a Garden Bounty and Food Share program.
Monday, outside the Nelson and District Teachers’ Association office next to the Post Office on Vernon Street, was the first day people could make a donation.
“We’ve had a lot of people donate items this morning,” said Shannon Lanaway, who along with Cheryl Grant positioned themselves at the door to the NDTA office.
“This (idea) came from a parent rally, where all the parents came together with teachers and CUPE members and we got creative as teachers to see what we can do because the parents have done such and amazing job of fighting for public education.”
Lanaway said teachers have been forced to find creative ways to remain positive during the labour dispute that has seen local instructors lose 10 percent of their wages.
“Teachers are dealing with their own poverty issues . . . and it’s not anything to hide or be ashamed,” said Lanaway, a TOC (Teacher on Call) in the Kootenay Lake School District for the past 11 years.
“This is a way to reach out and raise awareness that it’s government’s obligation to provide education, which is something that isn’t being met.”
During the dispute, teachers have not been receiving strike pay like most other unions involved in job action against an employer.
This has forced some teachers to find other work until there is an agreement is reached in the dispute.
However, Lanaway believes teachers on in this fight until there is a fair settlement.
“Feelings on the picket line are high and I believe there is a solid commitment from teachers to stay out as long as it takes to get an agreement,” she said.
“If you ask me, I believe it’s day to day when we’ll get a settlement, Lanaway adds.
“I believe in the ability of the (provincial) negotiators and my local union officials to try as hard as they can, but every teacher may have their own view.”
In the meantime, the public can drop off non-perishable items or garden produce outside the NDTA office on Vernon Street again on Thursday.
And teachers, along with their CUPE 748 union brothers and sisters, will remain on the picket line, where the food donations will be distributed.
“There’s been unbelievable support,” Lanaway said. “We’ve received canned goods, home canned goods, garden products, cereal, flour and donations from people.”
Wages and teachers’ conditions regarding class size and support staff levels remain a major stumbling block in the dispute between the BC Teachers Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association, bargaining agent for the provincial government.
No new talks have been scheduled as two sides continue to square off in the media.
However, president Jim Iker said the BCTF will conduct a provincewide vote on Wednesday, asking members if they’re prepared to end the strike if the government agrees to drop a contract clause over class size and binding arbitration.