Teachers derail two-week break

NANAIMO – Union and school trustees fail to reach agreement on monetary compensation for longer school days.

Students and staff in Nanaimo school district will only have one week off at spring break next year.

While the school board voted unanimously in March to extend next year’s break to two weeks to save about $400,000, this move needed the approval of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association because it would have meant changing teachers’ hours of work, as minutes are added on to each school day to make up for the extra week off.

At Monday’s business committee meeting to discuss next year’s budget, trustees learned that the union rejected the district’s final offer regarding the calendar change.

Justin Green, NDTA president, said the union called a special meeting Monday so that members could discuss the offer, details of which he wouldn’t talk about except to say it included monetary compensation but “not nearly enough” to offset the loss of pay for certain members.

He said teachers-on-call would be working more minutes per day for the same pay and would lose five days’ opportunity to work and prep-providing specialist teachers at the elementary level, such as music and French teachers, would lose a week’s pay.

“If they are expecting people to still work the same, then they should still be compensated the same,” said Green.

The union has calculated the cost of compensating certain members at more than $100,000 and the membership gave the executive direction to submit a counter-proposal for the board’s consideration Tuesday, he said.

“We’ll send it in and see what they say,” said Green.

But Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the board is not in a position to receive any more offers, as Monday was the deadline.

He said the union’s proposal would greatly reduce the savings of the extra week off, which was the idea behind doing it in the first place, and it was felt that compensating teachers is unfair to support workers, who will all lose a week’s pay because they are paid hourly.

The offer included some direct monetary compensation and a proposal that would shorten the time it takes for teachers-on-call to qualify for incremental pay raises, added Brennan.

He said some people will be disappointed they don’t get that extra week off, but the shorter break will benefit those families and employees who can’t afford an additional week of daycare or reduced pay.

The calendar change was not included in next year’s budget, but it will impact the district’s finances two years from now because trustees were hoping to have those savings to put towards the 2014-15 budget, Brennan added.

Meanwhile, trustees expected to finalize next year’s budget at a board meeting after press time Wednesday.

The business committee is recommending the board approve a balanced budget for 2013-14 that includes $2 million in savings identified from this year’s and last year’s budgets as well as $2.7-million in proposed cuts to balance out the expected $4.7-million shortfall.

Brennan said almost all of staff’s proposed cuts are recommended for approval by the board except for the proposal to move English-stream students from Davis Road Elementary School – the $107,000 staff expected to save will be taken out of supplies budgets – and the proposal to close the print shop was changed to requiring the service to operate on a cost recovery basis.

“It’s been a very painful process in terms of what we’ve had to cut from the budget,” he said.

For a complete listing of proposals and impact statements, please go to www.sd68.bc.ca.

Please see Saturday’s edition of the News Bulletin for more detailed coverage of the budget.