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Update: rotating strikes to hit Cowichan May 29

Rotating strikes by B.C. teachers will begin next Monday and hit the Cowichan School District next Thursday, May 29.

And Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced Tuesday it will be up to local districts to decide if students can be supervised or whether schools will be closed, as in previous short strikes.

Superintendent Joe Rhodes noted it's "too early'' to tell what the plan will be for Cowichan School District 79, but he expected to unveil details in the next day or two.

Teachers' job action is reaching the second stage in their contract dispute with the provincial government next week, with rotating closures at various school districts taking place Monday, May 26 through Thursday, May 29.

All schools will be open Friday, May 30, with no job action planned anywhere in the province that day.

A B.C. Teachers' Federation news release indicates this is happening because of "the unwillingness of the provincial government and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association to offer any improvements to class size, class composition, and other important learning conditions for students, as well as the employer's unfair wage demands.''

Cowichan District Teachers' Association president Naomi Nilsson was unavailable for comment at press time.

But Chris Rolls, president of the Lake Cowichan Teachers' Association, offered the following statement:

"Unless BCPSEA and the government are willing to negotiate in good faith with the BCTF, on Thursday, May 29, schools in Lake Cowichan will be behind picket lines as teachers participate in the rotating provincial strikes.

"Members of the Lake Cowichan Teachers' Association are behind the BCTF executive and the bargaining team, who have been working for 16 months to negotiate a collective agreement. We encourage parents and the community to let the government know that they need to invest in B.C. kids.

"When working with the truckers' strike earlier this year, Christy Clark said, 'Why fight when you can get a deal.' We say the same thing now.''

"Last week, teachers were hopeful when they saw the government and BCPSEA put out an olive branch by backing off the unrealistic 10-year term,'' noted BCTF President Jim Iker in the BCTF news release. "But the next day, hope that this government would start negotiating in good faith faded when the employer announced a series of threats around wage rollbacks, lockouts, and attempts to divide teachers, parents and students.''

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province's 60 school districts, informed the union last week that a 5% pay cut will be put in place soon in response to the first phase of strike action.

— with a file from Tom Fletcher

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