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Teachers' group opens food bank for union members

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

As B.C.'s educators and employers remain leagues apart in negotiations, one teachers' group is opening a food bank for its members facing the crunch of their months-long job action.


Last week, the B.C. Teachers' Federation strike pay dried up, and early into the strike the government announced it was docking 10% off their salaries.

When teachers' mid-month paycheques arrived, the Surrey Teachers' Association president began hearing about families deferring their mortgage payments, and some even taking summer jobs in the Alberta oil industry to make ends meet.

"Even for me it was half what I'd normally receive," said Jennifer Wadge. "I can imagine if you're budget's very tight … that would be pretty devastating."

It's not the first time the STA has provided food to striking members. In a 2005 dispute, the labour group also opened up its basement for a food bank. This time around, they started by giving out $10,000 in grocery certificates — which were almost immediately claimed by roughly 250 needy educators and support staff, Wadge said.

"Those were gone act in a matter of hours, before the end of the day even," she said. "That's how we came to our decision to open the food bank."

While some dismissed the move as a political stunt to create sympathy for teachers' demands on wage and class size, Wadge insisted the food bank is "definitely not a political message," saying there wasn't a press release or fanfare behind the effort.

"This is coming genuinely from the need we've heard from our members," she said.

On Thursday, education minister Peter Fassbender told reporters the two sides "are not even close in where we need to be in order to get a negotiated agreement," while the BCTF called for a mediator to be appointed.​ 

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