Teachers legislated back to work 

Parents stand-by for possible job action anyway

Parents should find out today if local teachers are taking action following the provincial government’s decision to introduce legislation to keep them at work.

Howe Sound teachers voted Tuesday afternoon on recommendations for action by the B.C. Teachers Federation.

The vote was secret but the speculation is that teachers were considering several options including walking off the job for a day as early as Friday.

"I can tell you the teachers in Howe Sound are very disappointed with a legislated imposition," said Carl Walker, president of the Howe Sound Teachers’ Association.

"At least 90 per cent of our teachers were wearing black (on Tuesday)."

The government introduced the legislation on Monday in Victoria. It imposed a settlement on teachers that will extend the existing contract through to June 30, 2006 effectively quashing the teacher’s right to strike.

The Ministry of Labour also announced that an Industrial Inquiry Commission will be appointed under the Labour Code to develop a new bargaining process that will be in place for the next set of negotiations.

Teachers have been asking for a 15 per cent pay increase over three years. The imposed settlement means they are facing a wage freeze.

This is the fourth time since 1993 that NDP and Liberal governments have imposed settlements on teacher negotiations. The bargaining agent for the government, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) was formed in 1994 and has never successfully negotiated a contract with teachers.

In 2004 the Ministry of Labour appointed Don Wright, a former Deputy Minister of Education, as a one-person commission to review the collective bargaining structure for B.C. teachers and their employers and develop options for improvement in the future.

He came up with 12 recommendations, none of which have ever been implemented.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said the Wright report is considered a starting point and the new Industrial Inquiry Commission will move to implement various recommendations.

Walker said teachers are still hoping for a negotiated settlement despite the legislation.

"We are still hoping to reach a negotiated settlement now," he said. "We are willing to meet with whomever to reach a negotiated settlement."

Howe Sound School superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson said the district is ready for job action if it comes to that.

"We have communication plans in place with availability of our website, and a toll free line that will be instituted should we get short notice on changes to school schedules," he said.

Should job action occur Friday it’s likely principals and vice-principals will open schools for safety reasons but there will be no instruction.

Said District Parent Advisory Council chairwomen Cathy Jewett: "Because of the huge social implication that schools have in society to take away teaching and to take away schools can create some real holes in the fabric of our society, especially for those who are most at risk.

"I can understand (the teacher’s) disappointment too because there wasn’t a bargained settlement. However, if you look at the lack of progress that the two sides were able to make you can’t point a finger at one side or the other."

• Currently the average salary for teachers in the Howe Sound District for 2004-05 was $60,750. The average benefit cost was $13,550.

• The average elementary school class size in 2004-05 was 23.5. In 1995-96 it was 24.3.

• Total Ministry funding for the 2004-05 year was $30.2 million for 4,288 students. The funding in 2001-02 was $30.2 million for 4,477 students.

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