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Gap between B.C. teachers, province widens as signing-bonus offer expires

Striking B.C. teachers at the Vancouver Art Gallery during a noon time rally June 16, 2014. Offer to give educators a bonus to sign a deal ends, with some calling it ‘insulting.’

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government's offer to give every teacher a $1,200 bonus if they sign a deal ending their strike expired Monday, leaving a wider gap between teachers' demands and the government's offer.

But some teachers, such as Jacqueline Sheppet, said they weren't so keen about a signing bonus, anyway.

(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)

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"Teachers found the signing bonus very insulting," said Ms. Sheppet, who teaches math at Lord Byng Secondary School in Vancouver. "We were saying there are some serious systematic problems in the education system, and to offer us $1,200 to sweeten the deal almost seems like hush money."

Ms. Sheppet said teachers would prefer for that money to be rolled into a wage increase, instead – an opinion that B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker had also voiced when the government first put the signing bonus on the table.

However, the BCTF later came out and asked for a signing bonus of $5,000 a teacher, a move that Ms. Sheppet said she doesn't understand.

"That was very confusing to a lot of us, because we thought, why is there a need for a signing bonus at all?" said Ms. Sheppet. "The teachers are looking at each other saying, 'It should just be rolled in to everyone's pay increase.' "

Neither the BCTF nor the government would provide any updates Mondy on the status of negotiations.

Meanwhile, B.C.'s Labour Relations Board ruled late last week that teachers must hold remedial classes for students in Grades 10 to 12 who need to retake a failed course and can't do so during the following school year.

The board has asked school districts to provide a list of all such urgent remedial courses, as well as a list of all the teachers who will teach them, by Wednesday.

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But Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said the LRB's stipulation – that only kids who can't retake a failed course in the fall may enrol – means the ruling is likely to apply to very few students.

Most courses can be made up during the school year, even though that might seriously inconvenience some students, said Ms. Bacchus. In some cases, it may even delay a student's graduation.

"We're trying to determine if there are cases where a student can't take the course next year," Ms. Bacchus said. "The order doesn't really define 'can't.' There are students who would certainly prefer to take it in the summer."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said it will be up to each of the individual school districts to decide whether there is enough demand to justify running the remedial classes.

Meanwhile, teachers have agreed to stop picketing at year-round schools and year-round custodial or treatment centres from July 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014.

The year-round schools affected include Spul'u'kwuks Elementary and Garden City Elementary in Richmond, Douglas Park Spul'u'kwuks Elementary in Langley, Kanaka Creek Elementary in Maple Ridge, Power Program in New Westminster and Cataline Elementary in Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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The province's more than 40,000 public-school teachers began limited job action in April, before starting rotating walkouts in May. They launched a full-scale strike on June 17.

The two sides have moved closer on the issue of wages, but class sizes, staffing levels and non-wage benefits remain some of the major sticking points in the dispute.

The two sides had been gunning for a deal by June 30 to prevent the strike from stretching into the summer.

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About the Author
Business Reporter

Alexandra Posadzki joined the ROB in August 2017, after spending nearly three years covering banking and real estate, among other topics, for the Canadian Press newswire. More

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