Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk and the 300 members of the ADTU are voting Feb. 29 on whether or not to launch into a full scale walk out.

UPDATE – Alberni teachers poised to escalate strike

BC Teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of escalating strike action. In Alberni, 300 teachers participated in the vote.

Alberni Valley families will have to scramble to make arrangements for their school-aged as they face a full-scale teachers’ strike as early as Monday.

The BC Teachers Federation reported Wednesday night that teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of escalating job action: 32,209 ballots cast; 27,946 voted yes. The BCTF was to meet Thursday to discuss next steps.

In Alberni, more than 300 teachers from School District 70 cast their ballots on Wednesday at the Steelworkers Hall regarding legislation that may pass next week. No local voting numbers were available by press time.

The Education Improvement Act introduced by Education Minister George Abbott calls for a cooling-off period, appointment of a mediator and a ban on any strikes, with significant financial penalties to both individuals and the BCTF if there are work stoppages during that six-month period.

“Alberni teachers are angry and feel like they’ve been targeted and bullied,” Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk said.

Teachers across B.C. have been without a contract since June 2011.

Abbott’s new bill drastically alters teachers’ working conditions, Zydyk said. For example, principals could dismiss teachers without due process. Employers would be able to arbitrarily assign teaching assignments, and choose professional development projects.

But class size provisions under the new bill are most troublesome, Zydyk said. “There will be no class size limits for Grade 4 and on,” he said. “It will result in worse classroom conditions.”

Mediation is part of Abbott’s bill, but Zydyk denounced the process, saying the arbiter’s marching orders are within the net zero mandate; therefore the matter is a forgone conclusion. “This is not a mediator, it’s someone doing government’s dirty work for them.”

School District 70 trustee Glenn Wong said the district is still studying the bill and therefore couldn’t say too much. “We should have a statement by the end of the week,” he said.

Wong’s personal view, he said, was that the strike would be a particular imposition on high school students.

“They operate on a semester system where every day counts,” Wong said. “If this goes on long then how will students make up for those days?”

Report card… A Facebook group struck by ADSS students is calling for student to walk out of classes in support of teachers on Friday at 9 a.m. “If they (teachers) make us stay then they are doing the same thing as the gov’t,” one student wrote.

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