Teachers threaten fall job action

Teachers ended the school year by voting in favour of job action.

Teachers ended the school year by voting in favour of job action.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said teachers provincewide voted 90 per cent in favour of job action in September if things don’t improve at the bargaining table.

About 70 per cent of teachers voted and while he doesn’t have local results, DeGear expects the Nanaimo results are almost identical to the provincial results. The strike vote results were made public Wednesday.

“We’ve been given a really strong mandate from teachers across the province and in our district,” said DeGear. “What the government is proposing at this time is no improvements. I feel we have a duty to stand up for the services students need and the resources required.”

The union’s current contract expires today (June 30).

Teachers are looking for improved working conditions (classroom size and composition, learning specialist ratios, caseloads and preparation time), increased salaries and benefits and more power at local bargaining tables.

Teachers voted for a teaching-only job action, which means they would still be in the classroom, but would stop doing administrative or supervisory tasks outside of the classroom, DeGear said.

The province will not let Nanaimo school district bargain many issues at the local table, including issues such as the post-and-fill system, which is unique to Nanaimo, he added.

The district and union spent hours working on the issue and last spring signed a letter of agreement intended to help fix the system, which has resulted in the layoff of between 175 and 250 teachers at the end of previous school years.

DeGear said the agreement is working – about one-third fewer teachers were laid off this year and he expects those numbers to continue improving – but the province will not let the district include it in teachers’ contracts because it is a provincial bargaining issue.

Trustee Nelson Allen said the post-and-fill issue is designated a provincial matter for now, but the BCTF and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association are talking about the split of issues between provincial and local bargaining tables.

Carol McNamee, vice-chairwoman of Nanaimo school board, said the teaching-only job action would have a major effect in the first few weeks of school.

“It’s a very busy time of year and management is drowning in work at that time,” she said. “It should be very interesting in September unless something positive happens. They can still come to some kind of agreement between now and then.”