Progress on teachers’ dispute gets failing grade

Negotiations between the province’s teachers and their employers in resolving their differences is receiving a failing grade.

Negotiations between the province’s teachers and their employers in resolving their differences is receiving a failing grade.

On Monday The Canadian Press reported the B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruled teachers must produce report cards from the beginning of the school year when they staged a limited strike.

On Wednesday the LRB rejected a request by the B.C. Teachers Federation to temporarily suspend its sessions with government-appointed mediator Charles Jago.

And on Thursday it was discovered an LRB decision on report cards was still forthcoming and students and parents must now wait until Monday to find out if they will receive retroactive reports.

Concurrently, teachers are wrapping up three days of voting on whether they want to stop taking part in extracurricular activities to protest the government’s legislation (Bill 22) banning further strike action and the appointment of Jago as mediator.

The LRB is still contemplating whether to remove Jago.

So it’s hurry up and wait, said Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union president Andy Davidoff.

“It’s frustrating because you don’t know what you are going to be doing, and what deadlines you’ll have,” he said. “We’re waiting for a lot of results.”

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

Last month the B.C. Public School Employers Association had applied to the LRB for a decision on report cards after teachers were legislated to resume full duties, arguing teachers should write two missed report cards so parents know about their children’s progress.

Teachers are normally required to produce report cards at this time, and if they are legislated Monday to produce retroactive cards, they will have to do so in the next two weeks.

“Report cards take a lot of work,” Davidoff said. “The workload issue is a big one. You don’t expect to do two sets of report cards within two weeks of each other.”

The BCTF went to the LRB earlier this month asking it to fire Jago, claiming he was biased in favour of the provincial government. While the board was making its decision, the federation wanted it to suspend mediation sessions involving Jago, the BCTF and school employers.

The province will heavily fine teachers if they choose to oppose the back-to-work legislation — $475 per day — so 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 and 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 centred around the teachers’ demand for a 15 per cent wage hike, as well as other changes to classroom conditions.