Teachers off the job Monday morning

B.C. teachers walked out on Monday and the province works on cool-off legislation

Teachers at Oceanside Middle School joined their B.C. counterparts Monday morning to protest lack of a contract with the province.

Teachers at Oceanside Middle School joined their B.C. counterparts Monday morning to protest lack of a contract with the province.

BC teachers started a three-day strike on Monday after they voted in favor of ramping up their job action last week.

After 87 per cent of the 32,000 teachers in the province voted yes to a strike, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert announced the strike plans last Thursday morning.

Acknowledging parents’ concerns relating to costs and inconvenience, Lambert said she hoped parents would support teachers in taking a stand against what she described as bullying legislation.

Parents have been, however, scrambling to make child care plans during the teachers’ job action.

“Teachers are determined and united in their opposition to Bill 22 and to the bullying tactics of a provincial government that has deliberately underfunded public education for a decade,” said Lambert.

Lambert said the legislation as written does not restore rights stripped from teachers’ contracts in 2002 and does not meet a B.C. Supreme Court decision last year that ordered the government to fix that legislation.

Earlier last week, the Labour Relations Board ruled the teachers can stage a three-day strike once, and then strike one day a week after that.

Education Minister George Abbott said he’s disappointed by the teachers’ strike-vote results but respects the decision. He said schools will open Monday with principals and support staff on site to supervise students, but attendance will not be compulsory.

B.C. teachers have been without a contract since June and have been staging job action since the start of the school year in September.

School District 69 (Qualicum) superintendent Jim Ansell said they have a process in place to deal with the teachers’ walkout. He said notices have been sent home and parents will be provided with a clear idea of what is happening.

“The last thing we want is for people not to know what is going on,” he stated.

A notice on the district’s website states that teachers will not be reporting for duty on March 5, 6 and 7 and parents should keep their children at home on these days.

It states school facilities will remain open under the supervision of school district staff, but they will be unable to provide students with instruction or appropriate supervision during this period of job action.

Ansell admitted that for many parents, daycare arrangements are being thrown into chaos and any time learning is disrupted it creates hardships for many people.

“Unfortunately it is always hardest on the most vulnerable kids … the kids with learning challenges and the kids who are struggling and that is really difficult.”

Depending on how much the job action escalates, high school students could miss several days of classes but Ansell said it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on senior students.

“As it turns out the second semester has more days than the first semester did, so in terms of overall instructional time there is not going to be a significant loss in that regard,” he said.

Debbie Morran, president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association (MATA), said teachers have responded with shock and anger to Bill 22.

“We are extremely frustrated. Teachers are feeling demeaned and are very concerned for the state of public education,” she stated.

She said teachers are invested in public education and are concerned and disheartened to see what has been tabled so far in the legislature.  She said they are escalating their job action reluctantly.

“We never want to be out of the classroom.  We are taking a position where we will not be providing any services for three days.  We feel we have to take a stand whether or not it falls on deaf ears regarding the legislation. Not taking a stand would be much more detrimental. We have to make our concerns felt … it’s the only way we have a legal means to do so.”

Morran said picket signs are not allowed so they will hold signs presenting a different message.

“We will be in and around school sites but will not be impeding access. We will be handing out informational leaflets,” she said.

She said this is a stand they are taking for the future of education in the province.

“Its about what we know will happen in our classrooms because of the legislation.”