Today is the first day of the most recent run of teacher job action.
What does that mean?
For students and parents, not much.
According to Clint Johnston, Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president, Chilliwack students and parents will not be affected by the limited job action.
Report card preparation and parent meetings will continue, as will pre-arranged extra-curricular activities such as coaching.
However, phase one of job action does include refusing written and electronic communication with school principals and other such officials, arriving no more than an hour before and leaving an hour after school hours, and refusing supervision of students outside class time, including recess and lunch supervision.
That means school principals and other staff will be responsible for those extra tasks.
“It’s purely a move to increase pressure on administration and make it less comfortable for them and hope their grumblings move upwards to motivate the provincial table to get a deal done,” said Johnston.
After a year of bargaining, union members voted 89 per cent in favour of a three-stage strike plan in March.
“A move like this shows we don’t want to inconvenience students, and we don’t want to inconvenience parents,” said Johnston. “This is as mild as we can be while still trying to prove a point that a year of bargaining with no movement really is not acceptable.”
Phase two of the BC Teachers’ Federation plan is rotating one-day walkouts in districts around the province. Phase three, a full-scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.
The BCTF has rejected the government’s offer for a 10-year agreement with pay increases totalling 6.5% over the first six years and additional wage increases to be negotiated for the final four years.
BCTF negotiators countered with a three-year proposal with three per cent plus a cost-of-living increase in each year. With compounding and current estimates of inflation, BCPSEA calculates that could amount to 13.5 per cent over three years.
The Ministry of Education has said it will respond to the strike action by seeking an order that the union pay for its extended benefits during any withdrawal of service.
That would cost about $5 million a month for 41,000 public school teachers.
“In order that there is in fact pressure on both sides, BCPSEA needs to respond to any phase one activities with measures that put corresponding pressure on the union,” Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the education ministry wrote in a letter to the union.
Johnston, however, wants to make it clear job action is not an easy road for teachers.
“We’re professionals who do this not just for a pay cheque, but because it’s a job we love,” he said “And we put in extra-curricular time and do tons of stuff outside of our work hours. So when we do an action like this that requires our members to respect stricter timelines and to not put that extra effort in, that is difficult on our members.
“But we need some kind of deal so education gets the stability the government says it wants.”
~with files from Tom Fletcher