UPDATED: Teachers vote overwhelming for binding arbitration
Teachers from across the province voted overwhelmingly to accept binding arbitration B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said Wednesday night during a livestream news conference.
More than 30,000 teachers of the 41,000 cast ballots Wednesday in voting with 30,490 of the 30,669 voted “yes” to accept binding arbitration with the government — 99.4 percent in favour.
“(Thursday) morning, custodial staff could be pulling chairs off desks, teachers could be setting up their classrooms, school counsellors could be finalized their timetable . . . teachers could be powering up their smart boards, classes could start this week and our children could be learning,” Iker said.
“Unfortunately tonight, there’s a single group of people standing in the way of our schools opening their doors tomorrow,” Iker added.
“The BC Liberal government’s refusal to accept binding arbitration is now the only reason our children won’t be back in class.”
Iker asked MLA’s for a reasonable answer as to why not accept binding arbitration and get schools opened now.
The BCTF proposal said issues like class size and composition would not go to arbitration, but would instead be resolved in an ongoing court case.
Provincial unions step up to support striking teachers
Teachers in the province are getting some major support from other unions in their fight against the BC Government.
Wednesday, public sector unions stepped up to the plate, pledging $8 million in interest-free loans to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation while at the same time calling on the government to accept that union’s binding arbitration proposal.
The BC Nurses’ Union has announced a decision to also pony up $500,000 to the teachers’ hardship fund.
“We believe this significant sum will help teachers stand strong against a government trying to bleed them dry,” BCNU President Gayle Duteil said in a prepared statement on its the decision to make a sizeable contribution was unanimous.
During a news conference, B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said teachers — who have been without pay or strike pay since June — are hurting financially.
Sinclair went on to urge the government to accept calls for binding arbitration and said the BC Fed is not ruling out more extreme measures such as a general strike.
Duteil said the funding shows nurses are behind the teachers fight.
“We know some teachers are struggling to pay their bills and feed their children,” Duteil said.
“I and the BCNU executive believe this is the right thing to do. Nurses are standing up for public education and quality public services for all British Columbians.”
In a letter to Premier Christy Clark, unions called on the goverment to join in binding arbitration and remove the contentious E80 clause from negotiations.
The E80 clause in the contract proposed by the province addresses class size and composition. The clause remains a major sticking point for the teachers.
Teachers in the Kootenay Lake School District joined their fellow colleagues in the province to vote on a proposal to end the month-long strike if the government agrees to binding arbitration.
Teachers on the picket line said a union rep would come around to the respective lines with the voting process.