Striking members of Vancouver Island North Teachers' Association wave to a passing vehicle while picketing at the School District 85 office on May 26.

Teachers return to picket line

Graduation ceremonies this weekend on the North Island should not be impacted by the ongoing bargaining dispute.

  • Jun. 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Graduation ceremonies this weekend on the North Island should not be impacted by the ongoing dispute between the province and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, and an all-school elementary track meet is still on track for next week.

School District 85 teachers are scheduled to be on the picket line tomorrow in the second round of a series of rotating, one-day strikes across the province. But the one-day local strike — and the partial lockout imposed by the government in response to the BCTF job action — should have no impact on activities traditionally done by teachers as volunteers on personal time.

“In terms of grad, we’ve said everything that happens there is voluntary,” said Fred Robertson, president of Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association (VINTA). “It’s my understanding that both grads are continuing. Where it becomes problematic is if we’re there in a supervisory capacity. So we will be there to support our grads, but not in a supervisory capacity.”

The Districtwide track and field meet for elementary school students will still be run at the North Island Secondary School track in Port McNeill, Sunset Elementary principal Steve Gray said this week. The meet had been scheduled for Wednesday, June 11, but as of this Tuesday, he could not guarantee on which day it would be held.

“It may not happen on Wednesday. We may be on strike,” Gray said, noting the BCTF must provide 72 hours notice if it intends a third phase of rotating strikes. “If that’s the case, we could move (the track meet) to Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to stay flexible to make this work.”

That could well describe bargaining between the teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), the government’s negotiator. Both sides have been stuck in their respective positions, with the BCTF demanding a pay increase and classroom size and compensation concessions and the provincial government insisting the union’s demands are far out of line with increases given to other public-sector union employees in recent years.

To apply pressure on negotiators, the teachers last month began a partial walkout, withdrawing services more than one hour before and one hour after classroom instruction time while shunning meetings with administrators.

The province responded by instituting a lockout of teachers up to 45 minutes before the start of classes and resuming 45 minutes after final bell each day. It also unilaterally instituted a 10 per cent pay cut, claiming the amount reflected the portion of teachers’ work days withdrawn in the job action.

The teachers promptly announced the start of the rotating strikes and appealed the pay cut last week with the Labour Relations Board.

“They say they need to do this to apply their own pressure,” Robertson said of the government’s action. “But if they believe teachers aren’t under pressure with rotating strikes, they’re mistaken. Withdrawing services is never an easy thing to do. For the government to also take 10 per cent of our salary for the perception we’re not accomplishing our tasks (while) we’re still teaching, we’re still assessing … this is intended to provoke teachers.”

The government’s lockout announcement created confusion among many families — and apparently some teachers — regarding how much involvement teachers could have in activities taking place outside of school instruction hours.

When the lockout was announced, BCTF President Jim Iker warned it would disrupt graduation ceremonies and that sports, drama and clubs would be cancelled. BCPSEA responded with a letter assuring there are no school district restrictions on volunteer extracurricular activities.

 

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