Teachers and province remain divided 

Relationship impacting students and parents

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE - March break? Local teachers staged a rally in Whistler Village on Feb. 27 as part of a day of action meant to demonstrate solidarity.
  • photo by joern rohde
  • March break? Local teachers staged a rally in Whistler Village on Feb. 27 as part of a day of action meant to demonstrate solidarity.

The lines are drawn and the sides are making strategic moves in the labour dispute between teachers and their employer.

Parents and students in Sea to Sky Country and across the province are caught in the middle.

Beth Miller, the B.C. Teachers' Federation representative in School District 48, said teachers are very frustrated.

"We don't want to go on strike," she said Wednesday (Feb. 29) as the last group of teachers cast ballots to determine if strike action will escalate to a full-scale walkout. "None of us want to be out of our classroom."

She said the teachers feel like they have reached their last resort after a year of contract negotiations to renew an expired work contract.

"We feel like we've been pushed into a corner," said Miller.

Former District Parent Advisory Committee Chair Cathy Jewett said the whole matter is very complex.

"Parents need to be informed and have a balanced understanding," she said.

Jewett added that the dispute is going to cost parents as they arrange care for children who won't have a classroom to attend.

Pique will regularly update its website at www.piquenewsmagazine.com as new information develops concerning the school issue.

Miller said her organization published information about the dispute at www.bctf.ca/ssta. The School District also has information posted about the labour dispute at www.sd48.bc.ca and the group that bargains on behalf of the provincial government is also posting information at www.bcpsea.bc.ca.

Earlier this week the Labour Relations Board (LRB) gave teachers the green light to walk off the job for three days followed by single day withdrawals in the following weeks.

That announcement was followed by the introduction of legislation in Victoria that will bring a mediator into the dispute and prevent the teachers from full strike action under the threat of hefty fines.

The length of time it takes for the legislation to pass will be determined primarily by the B.C. NDP. The opposition party has indicated it isn't in any hurry to push this legislation through.

"We would like to see a fulsome debate on this," Education Minister George Abbott said of his legislation during a conference call with reporters from around the province. "Obviously this is important legislation."

The spring break for students in the Sea to Sky area is set for March 13 to 24 so there won't be any strike impacts on parents and students during that period and the legislation is expected to be through the legislature by the end of spring break.

The two sides have far different feelings on teacher compensation and issues around hiring rights, seniority rights and professional development.

"We're feeling attacked on every front of our professional lives," said Miller.

In addition to those issues teachers are concerned about class size and composition issues.

"There are many teachers in this local that are really quite annoyed by the fact that they have to defend a pay increase," she said.

"I know that there are a lot of teachers that feel that given the net zero mandate we should have put all of our eggs into that one basket."

Abbott said the legislation in Bill 22 extends the old collective agreement to give the sides an opportunity to work with a mediator to reach a negotiated agreement by the beginning of summer. If the sides don't reach an agreement, then the mediator will issue a report by June 30 with non-binding recommendations.

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