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Parents backing B.C. teachers on picket line

Parents are supporting B.C. teachers both online and on the picket line. Two Facebook pages have appeared, one called Parents Join B.C.
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Teachers picket in front of Cordova Bay Elementary School. June 2014

Parents are supporting B.C. teachers both online and on the picket line.

Two Facebook pages have appeared, one called Parents Join B.C. Picket Lines has close to 1,000 followers, and urges parents to join teachers on the picket line weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Another Facebook page, dubbed Support for B.C. Teachers 2014, has close to 7,000 followers expressing support for teachers as they carry out rotating strikes around the province.

Jordan Watters, a Saanich resident, believes in the teachers’ cause and is encouraging other parents to join her by walking the picket line with teachers.

Her two sons, three-year-old Harley and one-year-old Fox, aren’t yet in the public school system.

“We’re looking toward the future [when] I would love for Harley to go into a classroom where teachers aren’t having to buy supplies. I would love it that his friends who have special needs are able to have those addressed, and if he needs extra support at some point, I would hope he would able to get that,” said Watters.

“It’s such a cliché, that the children are the future but they really are and they’re a sound economic investment,” said Watters.

Watters and other parents joined Keating Elementary School teachers picketing Monday and on Thursday, she’ll be joining those at Marigold.

“We’re encouraging as many parents as possible to come out and join teachers on the picket line,” said Watters.

She’s encouraging parents to “show their faces” and go use their lunch break to visit teachers on the picket line.

“Talk to teachers, talk to other parents and let’s continue this public discourse,” said Watters.

She hopes the parents stepping up will support teachers.

“Public education is so important in B.C. and it’s been stripped right down to the bones. There’s not a lot of room left to give here.”

The province needs to put more money back into education “and part of that is striking a fair deal with the teachers.”

The public’s tax dollars should not be spent on court costs fighting the teachers’ union, she said.

“Christy Clark isn’t willing to say how much [the Liberals] have spent in court on these issues and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a shamefully large amount.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation job action was sparked by a lack of progress at the bargaining table. The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, which bargains on behalf of the provincial government, responded with a partial lockout. The BCTF has challenged this move at the Labour Relations Board. A ruling is expected Wednesday.

The one-day, rotating strikes continue today in the Gulf Islands, Cowichan Valley and Comox. There will be no labour action Wednesday, but on Thursday, strikes will occur in Greater Victoria, Vancouver Island West and Qualicum. Friday, teachers will be out in Sooke, Campbell River and Vancouver Island North.

The province countered the strikes with a partial lockout that included docking teachers’ pay by 10 per cent starting May 26. But the union’s lawyers argued before the provincial labour board last week that employers have no authority to refuse wages.

The government contends teachers shouldn’t expect full salary when they’re no longer fulfilling all their duties.

Bargaining is set to resume today. The government has said it’s offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years while the teachers’ union said it wants 13.7 per cent over four years.

The union said despite two court rulings that affirmed the provincial government illegally stripped provisions from the contract on class size and composition, the issues remain a major sticking point.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com