September 03, 2014 - 7:08 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Teachers’ union president Jim Iker has declined the Premier's request to suspend the strike while bargaining continues.
Earlier today, Christy Clark urged him, before a packed news conference, to allow teachers to vote to end the strike or suspend it. Two hours later, Iker held is own conference and stood his ground.
“We’re not suspending any strike right now,” Iker said Wednesday afternoon when pushed to give a yes or no answer. “Keep in mind we’re also locked out right now.”
Nearly 11 weeks, 15 days of lost school over two years and a return to school still seems far off. Today, it wasn't Education Minister Peter Fassbender or negotiators speaking publicly, it was Clark herself, who was criticized this week for 'hiding' behind her Twitter and Facebook accounts. She challenged federation president Iker to ask teachers—many of whom have already lost $5,000 to $6,000 in salary—if they want to stay on strike.
Meanwhile, more than 300 teachers, parents and union members gathered outside Clark's West Kelowna office Wednesday afternoon to collectively send a message to their local MLA and premier who they believe is holding up the process.
“It is our West Kelowna MLA (who) is directing the show behind the scenes while refusing to meet with teachers face to face to resolve the matter and get our schools open for business," said Central Okanagan Teachers Association president Susan Bauhart.
Iker also said the vote teachers want to ratify a deal, but they need the government to make some movement before that can happen.
“We cannot deny (teachers are struggling financially), but our members are standing strong,” he said. “Some of them are suffering, and we care about that. They know this is about our students now, our classrooms in the future.”
Teachers began job action back in April and then added rotating strikes in May. In June the government began a low-level lockout and shortly after teachers moved to a full strike, which saw school end a week early across the province. School was to begin again Tuesday, Sept. 2 but was cancelled when a deal could not be reached on time.
Parents have taken to rallying, starting schooling at home and even starting petitions while the government has offered a $40 per child per day subsidy for children under the age of 13 to help ease the burden on parents while the strike continues.
(ADAM PROSKIW /InfoTel Multimedia)
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