B.C. Federation of Labour offers $8-million loan to BCTF, nurses’ union provides cash

Striking B.C. teachers got a significant financial boost Wednesday from the B.C. Federation of Labour, but it won’t help them receive strike pay.

The federation announced its affiliates would contribute $8-million in interest-free loans to the teachers. The money will go into a general hardship fund operated by the B.C. Teachers Federation, whose members can apply for a loan.

The province’s 41,000 teachers have not had a paycheque since they walked out of their classrooms in mid-June and there has been no strike pay coming from the union, which has been strapped financially after years of court cases.

Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Fed, said the loan is an indication of solidarity among workers for the pain teachers are going through.

The money was raised from contributions by the largest unions in the province, including some from the private sector. The donations come from the B.C. Government Employees Union, the Hospital Employees Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Steelworkers, a local of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Federation of Post Secondary Educators, the Health Sciences Association and Unifor.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union, which is not a member of the B.C. Fed, held a separate news conference to announce its support to the striking teachers. The nurses are providing $500,000 as a cash donation – not a loan – toward the teachers’ hardship fund.

“We believe this significant sum will help teachers stand strong against a government trying to bleed them dry,” said BCNU president Gayle Duteil in a statement. The BCNU is still in contract negotiations with the provincial government, and Finance Minister Mike de Jong says he is worried that giving in to the teachers’ wage demands would inflate the cost of settling with other public sector unions such as the nurses.

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“For years teachers have been at the forefront of the struggle to protect public education and have weathered repeated attacks by the B.C. Liberal government on their rights and professional work,” said Irene Lanzinger, secretary treasurer of the federation and a former president of the teachers’ union.

“We are here to tell the Premier Clark that the teachers are not alone; the labour movement is standing with them.”

On Tuesday, B.C. Hydro workers voted on whether to offer teachers a $100,00 interest-free loan.

With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria