Teachers across B.C. have been in Phase 1 Job Action since school began on Sept. 6. The main reasons the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) gives for job action are the lack of pay increases and benefits for teachers as well as class sizes and compositions.
Phase 1 is a ‘teach only’ campaign in which teachers just teach and do not perform ‘administrivia,’ such as lunch-time supervision, doing report cards, performing bureaucratic tasks, and attending unnecessary meetings.
“They haven’t stopped meeting at the provincial level, they continue meeting. We’re still trying to negotiate a settlement,” said Andy Davidoff, President of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union. “We will be recommencing local bargaining as soon as possible.
“We’re still awaiting clarification on what matters we can negotiate, and what matters will be negotiated at the provincial table.”
Davidoff said an arbitrator is determining which issues are local and which are provincial.
“At this point we haven’t run into anything in our district that we haven’t been able to resolve,” said Davidoff. “We don’t know for sure what’s going to be happening.”
School District No. 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) Superintendent Greg Luterbach said that two weeks into the new school year teacher job action hasn’t had a major effect on schools in the area.
“Schools are up and operating as per usual,” said Luterbach.
“Some districts around the province have cancelled recess and things like that. We haven’t done any of those kinds of changes. Parents might see a different face on the playground like me instead of the teacher who might’ve done supervision in the past. But for most parents that’s about the bulk of the difference they’re seeing right now.”
Things are likely to get interesting if job action proceeds into the fall when report cards are expected to come out.
“There’s been a page-long list the Labour Relations Board (LRB) approved that teachers don’t have to do during this job action.
“Those include everything from participating in staff meetings, which teachers don’t have to do currently unless it’s an urgent health and safety issue; attending professional development – unless it’s teacher led and not administration led; things like distributing newsletters and collecting fees,” said Luterbach.
“Big ones down the road are things like doing report cards. The BCTF said they won’t be doing them and the LRB agreed.
“That’s something that’s along the late October/early November time line. So, should we still be in job action at that time, that’s something which parents will see as a big change.”
Luterbach doesn’t think it’s realistic to expect administrators to be doing report cards.
“It’s those classroom teachers who have have been doing all the assessments and know the child at that level of detail,” he said.
“Right now we’re just focussed on getting schools up and running.
“The kids are smiling and are happy to be back in the class rooms,” the superintendent continued.
“The teachers are doing a great job teaching. I think for most kids they aren’t aware that this is going on.”
Luterbach said he’s received some calls from parents about the job action. There was a fair bit of concern before the long weekend when the word strike was floating around, he said.
“That was the biggest concern I’ve heard from parents to date. Just making sure their kids are in school and having that opportunity to learn with their great teachers and I’m glad to say that’s still happening.”
Parent Bronwen Lewis has two children attending Kinnaird Park Elementary. Like many parents, she is concerned about the situation but hasn’t seen much effect.
“So far I haven’t noticed a lot of difference other than trying to meet teachers after school. They aren’t wanting to, or I guess, allowed to do that,” she said.
“So I have to make other arrangements (to meet the teachers) during the day. I talk to the principal. It just takes a bit more coordination to meet your teacher.”
Lewis said she has to meet the teachers during school time. The teachers meet with her during class time, while a substitute looks after the class.
“Recess has been pretty much the same,” the parent explained. “Other than that there are no teachers out, just administration out on school grounds.
“We do have supervisors/lunch-time monitors that do go out. So far the kids have been fairly well behaved. I’ve noticed some of the district staff have come up and done some jobs like lunch time monitoring, or cross walk activities.
“They may or may not be used to that kind of thing.”
Lewis, who volunteers with the school planning committee, is worried about further job action and the impact it might have on her children.
“I’ve been looking into options,” she concluded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research into home schooling. Sometimes issues like this makes parents look at education differently.”