Terrace teachers’ union warns of lockout effects

End-of-year-field trips, graduation ceremonies, secondary school exams and report cards could all be affected

End-of-year-field trips, graduation ceremonies, secondary school exams and report cards could all be affected as the fight between the province and unionized teachers escalates.

In a letter to B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker yesterday, the BC Public School Employees’ Association (BCPSEA) says it will begin a phased lockout of teachers on Monday, May 26, the same day the local teacher’s union will hold a one-day strike.

Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Cathy Lambright says the lockout provisions could have widespread effects.

Teachers, for example, will be prohibited from arriving at school more than 45 minutes early and from staying after class for more than 45 minutes. If a deal is not reached by June 25, a full-scale lockout of secondary school teachers first, then elementary school teachers if an agreement is not reached by June 27, will go forward.

Locally, it’s going to affect a whole lot of things,” Lambright said, noting that the local union is still waiting for further legal clarification from the provincial federation. “It certainly is going to affect our graduation, which I am appalled about… It’s going to disrupt the scholarship night, the rugby team, the golf team, potentially track and field events that are going on. And I suspect, but I’m not positive, that it could affect all field trips – they can’t occur over lunch because we’re locked out over lunch.”

She’s also worried about report cards.

If we have to do report cards and we’re not allowed to work at lunch and we’re not allowed to do more than 45 minutes before and after school, I’m not sure how teachers will be able to get report cards done,” she said.

The letter, written by BCPSEA public administrator Michael Marchbank, details the lockout plan, which first works as a reduction of teacher job responsibilities, not a traditional doors-locked method. It says it is a reflection of the union’s phase 1 job action, which included union members refusing to meet with or communicate with administrators or engage in out-of-classroom supervision, like recess.

By this letter, employees are directed not to substitute any other work for their refusal to perform these and other tasks ordinarily required of them in non-struck circumstances,” wrote Marchbank. “Bargaining unit employees are directed not to work during recess or lunch hours except as specifically required by the essential-services order.”

It’s escalating it,” said Lambright, of the latest move by the government. “This is making people far more upset than they were before. Teachers who had really hoped we could get a deal at the bargaining table are beginning to question that – they’re still hopeful, but it’s becoming less and less likely.”

Education minister Peter Fassbender said in a statement on Twitter last night that the lockout does not have to affect extra-curricular activities or grad ceremonies.

Grad ceremonies can continue as they always do with help from administration and parents,” he wrote. “Teachers are definitely welcome to attend.”

Aside from the lockout, the government said it still intends to reduce teachers’ salaries by five per cent if phase one job action continues, and increase that to a 10 per cent reduction if the union’s rotating strike days go forward next week.

BCTF president Iker in a press conference this morning that the union is appealing the pay cut to the Labour Relations Board.