Grievances heat up in teachers’ strike

Hard feeling apparent among Kootenay Columbia job action participants

Teachers picket outside Stanley Humphries Secondary School on June 17.

Teachers picket outside Stanley Humphries Secondary School on June 17.

Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union says actions by the board of School District No. 20 have hit his membership hard in the early days of current job action by the BC Teachers’ Federation.

“Morale is terrible,” said Davidoff on Wednesday morning, the second day of full strike action by teachers.

“We had a couple of things happen that our board did that did not happen in other districts. One – they took our keys away last Friday and and that was extremely demoralizing.”

Davidoff said there are teachers in the district who have 30 and more years experience who had never before been asked to turn over their keys, “for any reason.”

Another concern expressed by Davidoff is that of pay cuts to teachers, with no advance notice.

“In anticipation of job action they deducted two weeks of pay,” he said. “Some teachers received zero pay. We had no notice of this. Not every board in the province did this… our board did.”

Davidoff’s third point made on June 18 relates to what he said was a threat from the SD 20 board to “hire external applicants for over 20 temporary teaching positions. Our contract did not have any language preventing that.”

As of press deadline the two sides remained apart, with no imminent breakthrough looking likely.

School District 20 Superintendent Greg Luterbach responded to the three points raised by Andy Davidoff later Wednesday morning.

1. Keys… and computers.

“Given the unknown length of the strike, the lack of maintenance and custodial staff, I felt we needed to manage access to the sites so I requested that keys be turned in,” stated Luterbach in an email, adding that SD 20 was not the only district to make the request. “I did check with the union president, Andy Davidoff first and he did not express any concern before my request was sent out to all teachers.” Luterbach denied asking for computers to be turned in, but said iPads were requested at one site, “…so we could try and get them upgraded over the summer if the labour dispute was not resolved prior to the summer break.”

2. Teachers’ pay cuts

Teachers’ pay was adjusted based on the 10 per cent partial lockout, days of work missed due to rotating strike action and the anticipated full withdrawal of services effective June 16.

The issue is that given that teachers will miss a significant amount of days in June due to the strike and the 10 per cent partial lockout on the days worked, it meant a much lower pay cheque for teachers for June.

3. Possible hiring of external applicants for 20 temporary positions

We approached the local president early last week to find a way to hold interviews offsite so potential teachers did not have to cross picket lines to attend interviews. We agreed to put things on hold until such time as we knew if the full-scale strike was going to happen. After repeated requests and offers by the district to hold interviews offsite, today the union agreed to such a process.