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Abbotsford teachers to join full-scale walkout

Teachers from McMillan Elementary were among teachers from schools across Abbotsford who rallied on Friday. The teachers walked along Trethewey Street, by the Ag-Rec Building and in front of the school district building with signs and supporters.  - Alex Butler
Teachers from McMillan Elementary were among teachers from schools across Abbotsford who rallied on Friday. The teachers walked along Trethewey Street, by the Ag-Rec Building and in front of the school district building with signs and supporters.
— image credit: Alex Butler

More than 1,200 teachers in Abbotsford are set to join their counterparts across the province for a study session on Monday, followed by a full-scale walkout on Tuesday.

This means that the last school day for Abbotsford students is today (Thursday) with there being no school tomorrow due to local teachers' third week of participating in province-wide one-day rotating strikes.

In a letter to parents, Kevin Godden, superintendent of the Abbotsford school district, said all year-end activities and camps scheduled for next week will be cancelled.

He said the district is making plans for a "reduced report card process" and final report cards will be mailed home in the coming days.

"We have shared our plan with the Abbotsford District Teachers' Association (ADTA), and our schools are making final adjustments based on their feedback," Godden said.

He said, despite the labour situation, students will still write their provincial exams at the appointed time.

"Even if our schools are behind picket lines, we will provide space for students to write, as the (ADTA) has committed that pickets will not impede students from visiting the school sites to write their exams."

Godden said qualified staff will be on hand to supervise the exams, and plans are underway for marking the exams and submitting them to the Ministry of Education "in a timely manner."

The province has pledged to end its partial lockout of teachers at the end of the school year to enable summer school operations, but it's not clear whether summer school would happen under a full strike.

Godden said updates on that situation will be provided on the school district website (sd34.bc.ca) or by email.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) served 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday, with BCTF president Jim Iker saying escalated job action would begin with a study session Monday, followed by a full strike starting Tuesday, if necessary.

The Monday study sessions will see BCTF members meet off-site; schools won't be picketed but teachers won't be there.

Bargaining is expected to continue through the weekend, and Iker said he's hopeful a deal is still possible before the weekend ends.

"Let' concentrate on getting the deal," he said. "This can be averted by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Then we can all be back in schools."

The strike notice was issued after a record turnout of more than 33,000 BCTF members earlier this week voted 86 per cent in favour of a full-scale walkout.

The province has offered a $1,200 signing bonus if teachers accept its proposal by June 30 of 7.25 per cent in wage increases over six years.

The BCTF's latest proposal is for increases totaling 9.75 per cent over four years, plus partial cost-of-living adjustments in each year tied to inflation.

The two sides have differing estimates of the compounded grand total of the union's wage demand. The BCTF estimates it at 12.75 per cent over four years, while the B.C. Public School Employers' Association pegs it at 14.7 per cent and says other non-wage compensation costs will further increase the bill, perhaps beyond 19 per cent.

The BCTF also has concerns about class size and composition, as well as support for students with special needs.

– with files from Jeff Nagel

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