Teachers’ strike not yet costly: school district

  • Sep. 14, 2011 8:00 a.m.

The teachers’ job action has meant more work for principals and other non-union staff on the islands, but so far has not resulted in substantial additional costs for the district, says superintendent Angus Wilson. Mr. Wilson said there could be costs if the job action drags on. Right now, exempt staff are doing some extra travelling, he said, to cover supervision during recess, before and after school. “Over time, that will be a little bit of a cost,” he said. With teachers refusing to do any fundraising as part of the job action, students may notice that fewer extra-curricular trips and activities get organized. “It’s probably going to reduce the amount of those activities that happen,” Mr. Wilson said. The Haida Gwaii school district is small and enjoys good relationships between the teachers and principals, Mr. Wilson said, which means that everyone has stayed cordial during the job action so far. Jennifer Jury of the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association agreed, saying the first few days back to school with the job action have gone smoothly. There has been a bit of confusion about exactly what tasks teachers are allowed and not allowed to do, but that is getting sorted out, she said. “I do feel comfortable saying that nobody wants to be on strike,” she said. “But teachers are appreciating that some of the parameters of the strike are allowing them to focus on teaching, on the parts of their job that are really rewarding.” Under phase one of the job action, teachers across BC have withdrawn a variety of administrative-type tasks, like supervising students at recess, meeting with administrators, collecting money from students or participating in fundraising. They will also be refusing to prepare report cards if no agreement has been reached when report card time comes around. Trustee Christine Martynuik, who was on the bargaining committee that reached an agreement on local issues with local teachers, said she’s concerned there’s not enough pressure on the BC Teachers’ Federation to reach an agreement. The teachers have been allowed to stop performing some of their duties while still receiving full pay, she said. In a complete strike situation, there would be some pressure on the BCTF to reach an agreement because no one would be collecting their regular pay cheque. “I’m worried because right now there is no pressure on the BCTF to settle,” she said. Ms Martynuik said she also objected to the BCTF “muddying the waters” by saying the strike is partly about getting more resources for kids in the classroom. Issues about class size and composition are being dealt with in a different process, she said, and are not on the bargaining table at the negotiations now underway between the BCTF and BCPSEA, the organization that bargains on behalf of the province’s school boards. Ms Martynuik said the BCTF is asking for substantial increases to benefits and has not yet tabled its salary proposals. This will be a challenge as the government has said it has no additional money to improve salary and benefits. “Two-thirds of the public sector reached agreement with zero mandate,” Ms Martynuik said.

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