UPDATE -Teachers strike in Alberni starts on Monday

Port Alberni teachers will begin a full-scale three-day walk out starting on Monday.

Teachers will stage a full scale three-day walk out starting Monday, Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk said.

The initial walk out will last from Monday to Wednesday next week, then subsequent walk outs will occur one day per week until March, Zydyk said. The scheme is consistent with conditions set out by the Labour Relations Board in its ruling earlier in the week. The LRB will re-examine its ruling in March.

On Wednesday night, teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of escalating job action: 32,209 ballots cast; 27,946 voted yes. The BCTF announced enhanced strike action starting Monday.

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

Families will be left in a lurch for child care, an impact no one wanted, especially teachers, Zydyk says. “Teachers are doing this reluctantly,” he said. “We’ve tried to minimize the impact to students since September but we’ve exhausted our alternatives.”

On Tuesday, Education Minister George Abbott introduced a bill in the B.C. Legislature. The Education Improvement Act 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.

The bill establishes a net zero mandate with respect to salaries. But more importantly, Zydyk said, it worsens educational impacts on children instead of bettering them.

It lifts class size limits, disregards students with special needs and doesn’t reflect an earlier court ruling regarding both, he added.

Calls to School District 70 for their response to the move weren’t answered Thursday morning.

A spokesperson with the B.C. Public Schools’ Employers Association said that districts are planning to communicate about this issue with parents.

The BCPSEA is sorry though that the issue had to come to this . “We’re very disappointed that we weren’t able to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the BCTF and avoid this disruption to families,” the spokesperson said.

The BCPSEA is at the ready to resume CBA negotiations and intimated that one week before the teachers’ vote on Wednesday. “But we need to have an agreed up on agenda that uses our time constructively,” the spokesperson said.

Schools won’t be completely empty as support staff and exempt employees will be showing up for work, the spokesperson said. Alberni CUPE support staff ratified their local collective agreement on Feb. 24.

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

Teachers commenced phase one of their job action last September when they began refusing to perform administrative and supervisory tasks.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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