More teachers’ strike activity could take place

TEACHERS ARE scheduled to release tomorrow results of a province-wide vote which could result in more strike action.

TEACHERS ARE scheduled to release tomorrow results of a province-wide vote which could result in more strike action.

The move follows an announcement late last week by education minister George Abbott that he’s having legislation prepared to impose a new teachers’ contract, ending what has been a limited job action since school resumed last fall.

As it is teachers haven’t been preparing report cards, having formal meetings with parents, conducting some out-of-school activities, meeting with administrators or doing supervision in hopes of forcing the province to negotiate wage and benefits increases.

But Abbott, in responding to a report last week indicating a negotiated settlement is unlikely, repeated the government position that there’s no more money.

The teachers’ vote follows an application made to the Labour Relations Board by the BC Teachers’ Federation asking what more job duties they might refrain from doing.

Teachers already met Monday across the province to discuss further strike action.

Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Karen Andrews, speaking after Abbott’s announcement he was preparing legislation, said local teachers are dismayed.

“We think that it is hasty, and if we are legislated an agreement, it is going exacerbate the situation,” Andrews said.

Last week  local teachers said their relationship with the Coast Mountains school board has been damaged because the latter wants the provincial government to end the strike.

Debra Thame, speaking for local teachers within the Terrace and District Teachers’ Union to school trustees Feb. 22, said the board needs to retreat from a motion it passed last month asking for “immediate government action” to end the strike.

The motion was discussed this past weekend at a provincial gathering of school trustees.

Local trustees cited lack of student report cards, lack of communication within schools and having administrators do supervision work as well as their own work as some reasons for wanting the province to intervene.

“This motion and supporting rationale contain many points that the teachers of this district find offensive and, quite frankly, unsubstantiated,” said Thame.

Thame said the board is taking the side of the provincial government when it should be pushing for mediation instead.

She argued that the current job action is having minimal impact on students and families, and in some cases teachers feel better prepared for lessons without the added work of administrative duties.

School board chair Art Erasmus noted that after a year of negotiating time and almost 80 days of actual bargaining the two parties are still about $2 billion apart from an agreement.

“We’re saying the government needs to do something,” Erasmus said.

“[The BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association] are way way apart.”