Construction continues at Wellington school despite teachers’ strike

NANAIMO – Agreement allows work to continue behind picket lines.

Striking teachers will not block seismic upgrade work currently taking place at Wellington Secondary School.

Donna Reimer, Nanaimo school district spokeswoman, said an agreement is in place with the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association and construction company Unitech Construction Management. Despite assurances that the union wouldn’t picket, Unitech has also obtained an order from the Labour Relations Board restricting picketing at the school.

“We have worked with the contractor and the union to ensure there would be a construction gate open that won’t be picketed to allow the construction to proceed,” Reimer said.

Work has been taking place over the past year and last week Unitech brought in a 500-ton crane to begin roof removal work.

“The crane’s about $1,000 an hour, so I guess spending $300,000 or $400,000 on this job was somewhat worrying for them, that we might picket it but there never was any intent,” said Mike Ball, Nanaimo teachers’ union president.

According to the school district, the crane, which takes about three days to assemble and will be onsite for approximately five weeks, will be used to remove a concrete roof and columns from the school’s central core. The structure will then see construction of a new interior and roof. The school district is projecting the seismic upgrade will be complete by January 2016.

The total cost of the Wellington project is $23 million and is paid for by the B.C. Ministry of Education, according to Reimer.

Ball said that Nanaimo teachers won’t be picketing on the Wellington site at all and will only picket at select schools – Dover Bay Secondary, Ecole Quarterway Elementary, Rock City Elementary, Nanaimo District Secondary, Ecole Davis Road and Ladysmith Primary and secondary.

The union has also pledged not to disrupt events that occur on school district sites at the upcoming B.C. Summer Games, which take place between Thursday (July 17) and Sunday.

B.C. teachers have been on full-scale strike since June 17.