Both the Caledonia Secondary School and Skeena Middle School year-end music concerts have been postponed, the latest casualty of the ongoing labour dispute between the province and teachers’ union.
Caledonia’s concert was to take place tonight, May 28, at the REM Lee theatre, with Skeena’s scheduled for next Wednesday, June 4 also at the REM Lee. The REM Lee is located on school district property.
“Due the lock-out the [teachers’] union has strongly advised me not to run the concert tonight because it would contravene the lock-out guidelines set-up by the government’s negotiators,” confirmed Caledonia music director Geoff Parr in an email earlier today.
Lock-out guidelines from BCPSEA (BC Public School Employers’ Association) stipulate that teachers are prohibited from arriving at school more than 45 minutes early and from staying after class for more than 45 minutes. BCPSEA has stated that the guidelines are a reflection of earlier phase 1 job action taken by the BC Teachers’ Federation, which included union members refusing to meet with or communicate with administrators in writing or engage in out-of-classroom supervision, like recess.
Job action escalated to phase 2 this week with teachers’ holding rotating one-day strikes across the province.
And in a schedule released May 28, a new series of rotating strikes begins next week. Schools in the Nisga’a School District will be closed Thursday, June 5 and in the Coast Mountains School District on Firday, June 6.
BCPSEA has released documents stating that teachers are allowed to be on school property for extracurricular activities.
But the teachers’ union says that it’s unclear whether teachers would be covered by WorkSafeBC during extracurricular activity supervision.
A letter sent to BCPSEA representative Mike Roberts today, May 28, from WorkSafeBC aims to clarify teachers’ insurance coverage during the lockout.
“Where extracurricular activity being performed by a worker is sanctioned by the employer, the worker is covered by WorkSafeBC – that remains the case in the current situation of partial strike/partial lockout,” reads the letter, signed WorkSafe BC official Roberta Ellis.
But Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Cathy Lambright said the letter does not provide enough clarification, nor does it address ongoing union concerns surrounding claims from teachers’ during volunteer activities at lunch or after school.
“I don’t see how [WorkSafeBC] can say we’re covered,” she said. “We have way too many cases of examples of claims and denials and appeals at WorkSafeBC that were supposed to be covered but currently are not.
“It’s not part of our employment to volunteer, so if it’s not part of our employment, then how are we going to be covered?” she continued.
Those concerns are further amplified during the lockout, which Lambright said has caused “huge confusion”.
“Personally, I’m waiting for either a legal opinion from the [teachers’] federation or something that will better explain,” she said.
Lambright said that it’s not just end-of-year concerts which could be affected – awards nights, scholarship nights, and grad ceremonies could also be at risk – although she said the union is in talks with the school district to reschedule certain ceremonies to times of day which the union says are allowed under the strike and lockout conditions.
And she said she is hoping that more clarification will come out of tomorrow’s provincial labour relations board hearing, and this weekend’s union representative assembly.