Although spring break has brought quiet to the schools in Castlegar and most of the province, tension still looms between the B.C. Teachers Federation and the Liberal Government.
The government is currently attempting to push through Bill 22 which would make any teacher job action illegal. Teachers participated in a legal strike throughout the province last week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
“Debate continues on the so-called Education Improvement Act,” said Kootenay-Columbia Teachers Union president Andy Davidoff. “The reasonable amendment that the NDP brought in that removed the more draconian and contentious parts of the legislation, appoint a mediator or binding arbitrator to resolve this dispute. That would be normal labour law.”
Bill 22 is expected to be passed by the end of this week.
“Everyone’s realized that this thing is bigger than teachers in British Columbia,” said Davidoff. “Everyone realizes that government is picking a fight with public sector unions. They’re looking at getting re-elected again. It doesn’t have anything to do with education any more.”
Last week, Kamloops teachers voted to withdraw all voluntary, extra-curricular services including coaching, providing direction to arts, theatre, and music groups, as well as assisting with graduation ceremonies. In addition to Kamloops, teachers in Sooke, South Okanagan, West Vancouver, and the Sunshine Coast have also decided to stop volunteering for extra-curricular activities.
“What the government is doing right now is so demoralizing to teachers. Why would any teacher volunteer to do anything extra when our government is doing this to us?” said Davidoff, who will be travelling to Vancouver this weekend for BCTF meetings.
“We will see what recommendations and what plan of action comes out,” he said. “But I think you see already developing throughout the province where there membership has said, ‘Enough is enough! you don’t value us.’ The government is bringing in this draconian legislature and the whole province sees it. Why would you do anything extra beyond teaching? “Teachers don’t have to spend their lunch hour, every break, and after school with kids that are struggling – that’s extra. Teachers don’t have to coach – that’s extra. Teachers don’t have to prepare ceremonies or work on graduation plans – that’s all extra, that’s all volunteer work that they do on top of their work. It’s all extra.”
Early in the week, the BCTF announced they would not make up report cards that were not issued prior to passage of Bill 22.
“Minister Abbott was talking about immediately preparing a report card without waiting for the next reporting period,” said Davidoff. “The next reporting period for most schools in our district is June. He wants us to backfill immediately. The reporting period is past and that’s struck work that was agreed to by the employer and teachers that would not be required during our phase one job action.”