Students will not be the only ones adjusting come the first day of school next Tuesday, as teachers check out of regular administrative duties.
After six months of failed negotiations with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation filed a 72-hour strike notice Wednesday.
The province’s 41,000 teachers plan to refuse to perform administrative duties as a tactic in bargaining for a new collective agreement.
“There’s a couple misconceptions that teachers won’t be doing anything and that they’ll be jeopardizing student safety – student safety is a very high priority for everyone in the school system,” said Andrew Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.
“We’re calling it the year of joyful teaching because in Phase 1 we can focus on teaching and not the ‘administrivia’ of what can be our work.”
While the bargaining remains on a provincial level, Davidoff has been in communication with new superintendent Greg Luterbach to discuss how cuts to administrative duties will play out in School District 20.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation says it will stop outdoor supervision during recess, lunch hour and after school as part of limited strike action, which has some schools districts in the province canceling outdoor recess entirely. But that’s not the case locally.
“Recess will go on,” said Luterbach. “What you will see is our principals and vice principals and our district staff and myself out on the playgrounds. We’ll be dispatched out to schools to help out, we’ll have principals from neighbouring schools helping each other out and we’ll manage to get through it.”
Beyond supervision, parents will notice a difference in communication, with regular expectations such as meet the teacher night possibly nixed.
Though not in the cards, yet, Education Minister George Abbott said that the province is prepared to step in to end a full-fledged strike by teachers if one takes place.
“They’ve done that in the past and it would not surprise me one bit that Minister Abbott and the Liberal government would legislate people back to work,” said Davidoff.
“But I think you need to give collective bargaining time to be successful and when one side sort of strong arms the other side, in terms of legislation, that’s’ not good faith bargaining in our opinion.”
The main sticking points in the bargaining process are class sizes, benefits and wage increases.
Both sides have met at the bargaining table for 30 sessions to date and there has been little to no progress, said Davidoff.
“We’re calling it sub-zero because basically we’re going backwards instead of forwards and they’re sticking to a net-zero mandate, which basically says if we want anything that costs any money, then we have to give up something else that costs money,” he said.