Teachers ready for fall job action

As the start of the school year approaches, teachers are preparing for job action.

As the start of the school year approaches, teachers are preparing for job action.

In June, the union announced that teachers voted 90 per cent in favour of job action starting in September if things didn’t improve at the bargaining table. Teachers’ contracts expired June 30.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said he’s been told that there wasn’t too much progress at the table over the summer, but teachers return to the table on Tuesday (Aug. 23).

He said over the summer, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation received clarification from the B.C. Labour Relations Board on what job action is permissible.

Teaching is deemed an essential service and the LRB plays a part in determining what service levels are considered basic.

DeGear said teachers will still be in the classroom, but will stop doing supervisory or administrative tasks outside of the classroom, including attending administration-organized events like meet-the-teacher nights.

Teachers will continue to organize extra-curricular activities for students and communication with parents will also continue, just not at a formal meet-the-teacher night, DeGear said.

“Hopefully at this point there’s minimal disruption for students and parents,” he said.

Teachers are asking for improved working conditions – including reduced classroom sizes and fewer special needs students per class, lower learning specialist ratios and case loads and more preparation time – increased salaries and benefits, and more power at local bargaining tables.

The net-zero mandate the province has so far proposed will not satisfy teachers in this round of bargaining, said BCTF president Susan Lambert.

She said that when the union and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association go back to the table teachers are hoping for the best, but preparing for job action.

Hugh Finlayson, BCPSEA CEO, said the union and the association have agreed to choose an arbitrator to help determine what matters should be negotiated at local and provincial tables.

The two sides have reached an impasse on local and provincial issues, he said.

But even once this issue is resolved, coming to some kind of agreement before school starts will be difficult, added Finlayson.

The association determined the union’s benefit improvement requests, which does not include the salary increase teachers have asked for, will add roughly $2 billion per year in costs to the employer.