Action, frustration brews on teachers’ union front in Greater Trail

 

By Timothy Schafer – Trail Daily Times
Published: April 05, 2012 4:00 PM

Action is forthcoming from the local teachers union on the province’s institution of Bill 22, said the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union president.

Andy Davidoff said the BCTU’s executive is meeting this week to digest what the action plan formulated by the B.C. Teachers’ Union in response to Bill 22 last month in Vancouver.

He said the local union members are very frustrated with the government’s actions.

“It’s sinking in how odious and pernicious of a piece of legislation that it is,” he said. “The issue is whether the legislation is legal and constitutional and that is for the courts to decide.”

Although the province will heavily fine teachers if they choose to oppose the back-to-work legislation — $475 per day — the teachers are looking at the legal and political options around the bill.

Bill 22, which bans further walkouts, forces teachers to resume their normal teaching duties — which resumed last week in School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) — imposes a six-month “cooling-off” period, and then sends the contract dispute to mediation.

The teachers started a limited strike in September as part of a dispute that centres around the teachers’ demand for a 15 per cent wage hike, as well as other changes to classroom conditions.

Because teachers are considered an essential service, their job action has been limited to skipping administrative tasks such as filling out report cards.

But Bill 22 now requires teachers to issue report cards. Although teachers may now comply, the BCTF has noted report cards will not be retroactive, including the months of school since last September when job action began.

“We are now discussing report cards with the board office. We’re just working everything out,” said Davidoff on if the teachers would be issuing report cards.

SD20 superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach echoed Davidoff’s position, acknowledging they were still in conversation about the plan of action regarding teachers’ duties, and how far back the reporting would be.

“That is part of the conversation, what meaningful information do parents need, and going back how far,” he said. “We are having conversations with our teachers and we know relationships are very important, but we also know parents need to have a good picture of how their child is doing.”

In a non-job-action year, report cards should have come out before spring break for elementary school students, with two report cards per year for students at J.L. Crowe Secondary School and three per year at Rossland Secondary School.

Some teachers’ locals in other areas of the province have voted to withdraw from extra curricular activities, but the KCTU has not voted yet.

Participation in extracurricular activities such as school clubs is voluntary and would not contravene the new legislation.

Following a meeting with KCTU executive next week, the area’s teachers and the rest of the 41,000 teachers across the province will vote April 17-18 on the action plan.

Teachers have been without a contract since last June and a government appointed fact finder concluded earlier this year that there was little hope the two sides could negotiate a settlement on their own.

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