Teacher’s job action is having effect

Schoolteachers have not yet secured a collective bargaining agreement, but their limited job action is having an impact

PORT HARDY— Vancouver Island North schoolteachers have not yet secured a collective bargaining agreement, but their limited job action is having an impact according to local school administrators and parent advisory councils.

School District 85 trustees were given reports from superintendent Scott Benwell and District Parent Advisory Council representative Penny Mills during their regular meeting Oct. 11 at the district office.

“I asked administrators the impact on them of the job action,” Benwell said.

“Aside from the noon supervision schedule and additional workload, they cited a feeling of being disconnected as a staff unit.”

As part of their ongoing contract negotiations with the B.C. School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), local teachers continue to instruct students, but have refused to take part in administrative tasks, ranging from playground duty at recess to distributing and collecting fundraising information and income.

The action is designed to bring pressure on negotiators, and appears to be having an impact as trustees were recently called to a meeting with BCPSEA officials.

“They talked about the job action and wanted to know its effect on us,” said board of trustees chair Leighton Wishart, who attended the meeting.

“We told ‘em the pressure is mostly on our administrators. At this point it’s not affecting our students.”

The job action may not be affecting classroom instruction, but Mills said representatives from the Port McNeill Elementary School and Eagle View Elementary PACs have indicated negative impacts on their students.

“There are concerns coming in from Eagle View about (playground) supervision, so much so that parents are coming in to watch their own kids because they’re not satisfied they’re receving sufficient supervision,” she said.

“Also, fundraising has become more difficult. The issue with teachers unable to handle money or pass out fundraising letters or remind kids to fundraise means we have to speak to parents face-to-face.”

Benwell, meanwhile, thanked VINTA for what he called a problem-solving approach to its negotiations.

Fred Robertson, the VINTA representative, reiterated the job action was crafted to allow teachers to continue to do what they do best.

“Our job action must be having an effect if BCPSEA called trustee representatives to Vancouver to ask questions,” Robertson said.