Even though the school year is coming to a close, teacher unrest is not.
About a dozen Chilliwack teachers rallied along Vedder Road and Luckakuck Way Wednesday afternoon to remind the community their fight for public education is not over.
It was one of several teacher rallies held across the province Wednesday.
“Just because summer vacation has arrived for students and most teachers, the issues haven’t gone away,” said Doug Fraser, teacher at Ford Mountain Correctional Centre, which falls within School District 33’s mandate.
“I’m out here to protest against Bill 22 and the lack of true mediation going on right now.”
For Sardis secondary foods teacher Doreen Van Stolk, her presence at the rally came down to safety. Holding a placard that read ‘Everyone’s a someone in a small class,’ Van Stolk described the state of her working environment.
“I have 31 students in a classroom that’s designed for 24,” she said. “Not only have I gone flying, I’ve had a student who tripped over a chair and cut his arm from his wrist to his elbow. These are big kids. There’s nowhere to move, nowhere to sit, nowhere to work … which lowers the quality of education.”
B.C. teachers have been in a battle with the government for the past year when their last contract expired in June, 2011. The teachers’ union has argued for an increase in wages, benefits and better working conditions, including smaller class size and composition, a reduction in case loads, more class preparation time and improved learning specialist ratios.
But the government has maintained all public sectors must accept a net-zero contract, which has resulted in a tumultuous standoff between the union and the education ministry.
Last September, the union entered phase one of job action, resulting in no teacher supervision during recess, and before and after school care; no teacher attendance in administrative meetings; and no teacher-written report cards. Job action escalated in March to a full-scale walkout that lasted three days.
Shortly after, the government passed Bill 22 legislation that forbade further strike action and imposed a six-month “cooling off” period, which completes in August.
One month later, the teachers’ union voted in favour of withdrawing from extracurricular activities.
“With the cooling off period, the issues haven’t been in the media as much as they were before,” said Chilliwack secondary school math teacher Ed Klettke. With this rally, “we want to keep [the issues] alive.”