As teachers ready themselves for the first day of job action today (Sept. 6), the Education Minister isn’t holding much hope talks between the teachers’ union and the province will end in a negotiated settlement quickly.
George Abbott told the media last week the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association are still far apart and no significant progress has been made since the two sides started meeting last spring.
“If there is reason for optimism, it has not been shared with me,” said Abbott, during a media conference call.
The BCTF filed official strike notice Wednesday for job action expected to start today .
Teachers are asking for improvements to working conditions, increased salaries and benefits and more power at local bargaining tables.
But Abbott said the province has a net zero mandate for all negotiations, which means nothing that results in a cost increase for the province can be included in a new collective agreement.
He hopes the impact of job action will be “relatively subtle” during Phase 1, but if teachers decide to proceed to Phase 2, there will be more of an impact on students and families.
The province will keep a close eye on the progress of the job action, Abbott added.
Dave Hutchinson, Nanaimo school district superintendent, said a plan is in place to ensure schools run smoothly.
During Phase 1 of job action, teachers will continue to teach in classrooms but will not perform administrative tasks such as filling out forms, collecting data, meeting with principals or other administrators. Teachers will also not be supervising playgrounds or writing report cards.
Management and other staff not part of a union will supervise students alongside principals and vice-principals during lunch and recess, said Hutchinson.
Management could be expected to work additional hours to carry out their regular duties and each area manager will determine what, if any, duties might be postponed during the job action.
“If they move to more stringent restrictions or even a strike, then clearly the impact will be more significant,” said Hutchinson.
Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the job action will give teachers more energy and time to focus on the aspects of teaching most important for students, such as fostering a love of learning through hands-on activities.
“I’m excited teachers won’t have to do some of the more onerous activities,” he said.
Hutchinson said the district is sending a letter home to parents on Sept. 6 with information on teacher job action and the information will also be posted online at www.sd68.bc.ca.
Nanaimo school district and the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association both have information to share with students and families regarding school start-up in light of teacher job action.
District staff want to remind people that:
u Teachers will be in classrooms, providing instruction as usual
u The district doesn’t expect there will be any picket lines
u The district expects most extracurricular activities will continue
u Teachers will not be participating in most school and district meetings – with the exception of meetings about class organization and health and safety issues
u Teachers will not be taking part in “meet the teacher” activities at schools
u District management staff, along with principals and vice-principals, will be required to supervise students before and after school and during recess
u The district appreciates parents’ co-operation in arranging to have non-bus-riding students arrive at school shortly before school start time and leave school property soon after dismissal, as there will be only limited supervision of students during these times
The NDTA wants to remind students and families that:
u Teachers will continue to assess the progress of students.
u Teachers will volunteer for extra curricular activities, as they always have.
u Teachers will take attendance and report attendance to the office.
u Principals and district management will provide supervision for students during recess and break times.
u Teachers will not take part in administrative tasks.