Chilliwack teachers could walk away from extracurricular activities again next year

A Labour Relations Board ruling on Friday has given teachers permission to continue withdrawing from extracurricular activities.

A Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruling last week did nothing to improve the current state of educational strife in B.C. schools, says a Chilliwack parent representative.

The LRB ruled on Friday that while teachers were well within their rights to withdraw from extracurricular activities, they were not given leave to stop participating in parent-teacher interviews.

In her decision, Ritu Mahil, LRB vice-chair, stated the teachers’ union had not undertaken an unlawful strike by directing its members to refrain from participating in activities outside of instructional hours, including supervising or instructing student performances, sports teams, clubs, field trips, graduation and awards ceremonies, “which are truly voluntary and extracurricular.”

However, Mahil did note the union was in violation by authorizing teachers to withdraw from activities like parent-teacher interviews and kindergarten orientation, which “although they occur outside of instructional hours, may nonetheless be part of their work duties.”

The union has been directed to cease and desist from that stance.

Gord Byers, president of the Chilliwack District Parents’ Advisory Council, said that while he understands teachers not wanting to give up their bargaining leverage, he fears students will suffer in the long run.

Without after-school activities like sports and theatre productions to keep students engaged, Byers believes some will lose interest.

“It’s basically going to boil down to a school year that’s going to be 8-4,” he said. “There’s no way around it, they’re going to lose out.”

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) president Katharin Midzain said it’s still too early to jump to conclusions regarding next year. She said teacher action will depend largely on government proceedings this summer.

“If we get an imposed contract that has a lot of restrictions or things taken away, I think it will not bear well for the extra things teachers do,” said Midzain.

At the CTA’s annual general meeting in May, teachers were advised not to plan any out-of-school activities for the next school year.

Chilliwack teacher Clint Johnston, who will be taking over as CTA president in July, doesn’t hold out much hope for teacher involvement in extracurricular activities next year given the membership already “clearly voted” this year to withdraw from those services.

But it’s not a decision that would be made lightly, he said.

“We understand the importance of extracurricular activities, it’s why we chose to involve ourselves in them,” said Johnston, a parent of five children; four in the public school system.

“But when you feel your voice is being taken away from you … when you’re only left with certain actions you can take, those inevitably probably become the actions you do take.”