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Teachers' strike looming

 Gail Chaddock-Costello - Langley Times file photo
Gail Chaddock-Costello
— image credit: Langley Times file photo

Langley teachers may walk off the job as early as Monday.

Teachers were voting Wednesday at a Langley Teachers Association meeting at the Coast Hotel, as to whether they want to escalate job action to a full scale walk out.

Already more than 600 teachers had taken part in advance voting on Tuesday, said LTA president Gail Chaddock-Costello.

“We have around 1,000 full-time teachers and around 1,500 members in the district, so to get more than one-third of our members out voting so early sends a huge message. I don’t think that has ever happened in this district or anywhere else.”

On Tuesday, the Labour Relations Board allowed the teachers to walk off the job, if they give two days notice. The initial walkout can be no more than three consecutive days, according to the LRB ruling.

Any walkout in Langley would be tied in to provincial action. If there is a strike, all schools will be closed.

“I will be sending a very strong statement to our members today to stand up for their profession. With what this government is doing, further stripping of our contract, there won’t be much of this profession left,” she said.

She said the government’s ‘draconian’ legislation has left teachers little choice but to strike.

B.C. Teachers Federation president Susan Lambert said provincial action will be dependent on what members decide in individual districts.

However, she is very unhappy with provincial legislation introduced Tuesday.

The provincial government introduced legislation which calls for a six-month cooling-off period, while a mediator is called in to discuss non-monetary issues including class size and composition. The legislation, if passed, includes hefty fines of $475 per teacher per day for every day they are on strike. The BCTF would face fines of $1.3 million per day if there is an illegal strike.

A strike under terms set by the LRB would be legal, until the legislation is passed.

The province says it isn’t willing to talk about teachers’ salaries, although Education Minister George Abbott said Tuesday a raise was possible if other cost savings could be found.

There is a huge gap between the province’s net zero wage proposal and the B.C. Teachers Federation request for a 15 per cent increase over three years.

If teachers do go on strike,  parents may have to scramble to find daycare next week.

Langley School District is asking parents to stay tuned to its website and the radio to find out if schools are closed on Monday.

“If the teachers are striking we ask parents to keep their kids at home. There won’t be buses running,” said Sandy Wakeling, Langley School District’s communication manager.

Langley schools are scheduled to be on a two-week spring break in the following two weeks, from March 12 to 23.

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