Teachers Laurel McEachnie (front left) and Kristen Dion (right) walk the picket line at Alexis Park Elementary School Wednesday with Denise Lauson (back left) and Louise Alexander.

BCTF revises demand in talks to ward off full strike

Poll finds support for smaller classes, but not a pay hike for teachers that exceeds deals for other unions

The B.C. Teachers Federation says it’s presenting a revised demand to provincial government representatives in talks that are expected to run through the weekend in an effort to avert a full-scale strike next week.

The union issued 72-hour strike notice this week and said teachers will hold study sessions Monday followed by a full walkout starting Tuesday unless a deal is reached.

Asked if the province is also revising its offer to the teachers, a representative of the B.C. Public School Employers Association only said that “bargaining is ongoing and everyone is focused on trying to reach a negotiated agreement.”

BCTF spokesman Rich Overgaard called it a “fluid” situation with both sides focused on reaching an agreement.

The Labour Relations Board on Thursday expanded the designation of essential services to include the supervision of Grade 10 to 12 provincial exams from June 16 to 24 and the completion and submission of final grades for Grade 12 students by June 20.

It also covers testing and designation of special needs students.

A new online poll by Insights West, meanwhile, suggests more people are siding with the teachers in the dispute.

The survey found 42 per cent of B.C. residents think the BCTF is being reasonable, while 32 per cent felt that way about the government.

Insights West Poll

Sixty per cent of those polled said class sizes in public schools need to be smaller.

But an even stronger majority – 65 per cent – said teachers should get the same salary increase as other B.C. unions. Just 16 per cent agreed the teachers should get more.

More than half (58 per cent) said balancing the budget should take precedence over raising salaries for government workers.

“Most parents with children enrolled in public schools have emerged from the last two weeks with disappointment,” said Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco.

“Parents who have children in public schools are decidedly supportive of the teachers and the BCTF, in spite of the inconvenience that the dispute has brought to their daily lives. Only 14 per cent of parents side with the government, while 43 per cent remain sympathetic with the teachers and BCTF.”

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