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Teachers ready to strike come September
The results of a weekend vote by B.C. teachers reveals 90 per cent are ready to begin job action come September if progress is not made at the bargaining table with the province.
Wednesday morning, Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association president Alice Rees said the union membership is fed up with the kinds of concessions it feels teachers have been making since the province took collective bargaining on issues dealing with money out of local school districts’ hands in 1994.
“We’ve got two months for people to consider where they want this to go,” she said.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has said job action would start with teachers refusing to do administrative duties but continuing classroom teachings, though Rees said she is hopeful meetings and bargaining continues over the summer.
Teachers have seen the provincial demands for concessions on classroom supports and feel it’s time to take a stand, she noted.
The benefit package and an attempt by government to remove seniority-style hiring and advancement—a key job security feature from the BCTF’s viewpoint—with a skills-based best fit system are also among the key dickering points.
“They are suggesting that teachers who have dedicated their lives are somehow not worthy of consideration or security,” said Rees.
All of that said, the union representative said learning conditions remain the top priority for teachers at the moment, particularly given the recent Supreme Court decision stating the province violated teachers’ rights by stripping bargaining on class size and composition from the collective agreement.
In the meantime, Central Okanagan School District superintendent Hugh Gloster said the school district is prepared to deal with any changes the September job action may bring.
“We’re going to be obviously watching to see what comes out of all of this,” said Gloster.
“We’re meeting with administrators to go over plans and ensure they get prepared for this.”
Gloster said the meetings will take place now and near the end of August and that the district is anticipating staff from the school district might need to step in to cover off things like out-of-classtime supervision.
Efforts to contact the Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council went unanswered at press time on Wednesday.
This spring, the local board of education opted to go around the parent lobby group until such time as it can start to muster enough parent support to be considered a viable lobby group representative of parents’ voices.