Public sector unions in British Columbia are standing in solidarity with striking teachers, pledging $8 million in interest-free loans to the B.C. Teachers' Federation, and urging the government to accept that union's proposal for binding arbitration.
In addition, the B.C. Nurses' Union announced Wednesday it is donating $500,000 to the teachers' hardship fund.
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In a statement, BCNU President Gayle Duteil said the decision to make a sizeable contribution was unanimous.
"We believe this significant sum will help teachers stand strong against a government trying to bleed them dry," she said.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said Wednesday that teachers — who have been without pay or strike pay since June — are hurting financially.
He called on the government to accept calls for binding arbitration and said that he is not ruling out more extreme measures such as a general strike.
A letter sent to Premier Christy Clark and signed by the presidents of B.C.'s largest public sector unions says that each bargaining table is different, and so is each process to settlement.
"We urge you to immediately stop attributing your refusal to bargain critical issues with teachers because you want to be 'fair to other public sector workers'," the letter states.
"If you want to be fair to all public sector workers, send the outstanding issues to binding arbitration as proposed by the BCTF and remove E80 from the bargaining table."
The E80 clause in the contract proposed by the province addresses class size and composition, and is a major sticking point for the teachers.
Members of the BCTF will vote today on a proposal to end their months-long strike if the government agrees to use binding arbitration to settle the ongoing dispute.