Teachers’ plan shelves school activities

Some significant pieces of academic life will be missing as teachers now begin employing their job action strategy.

Report cards are “in the mail,” but some significant pieces of academic life will be missing as teachers now begin employing their action strategy, after voting in favour of a plan late last week.

Extra curricular activities such as graduation ceremonies, sports events and school trips are all in jeopardy in School District No. 20 (Kootenay Columbia) after public school teachers voted 73 per cent in favour of the plan Friday.

Although local vote counts for the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union (KCTU) won’t be made available, KCTU union representative Andy Davidoff said teachers are embarking on their strategy with reluctance.

“If your employer treated you with disrespect, if your employer didn’t value your work, if your employer acted in ways to demoralize you, how would you react when your employer asked you to do extra things?” he said. “Volunteer work is something (teachers) value so much, and it makes a huge difference for students, so they very reluctantly take steps like this.”

The B.C. Teachers Federation was limited in how to show dissatisfaction over Bill 22, said Davidoff, and they chose this strategy as their only route to express the sentiment.

However, Davidoff felt some teachers would go ahead with their extra curricular activities since the action plan asked teachers to “refrain” from extra curricular and volunteer activities, and was not an outright prohibition.

“No matter what the government does to us, some will continue to perform voluntary activities,” he said.

Meanwhile, a decision by the B.C.’s Labour Relations Board Friday ordered teachers to prepare second term report cards — missing since job action began in September. The ruling gives teachers until April 27 to have them ready.

Teachers knew they would have to issue report cards at some point and were ready, said Davidoff, and parents will have them in their possession by the end of the month.

“Parents will receive a report card and they will know how their kids have been doing since September. That will be a cumulative piece,” he said. “Then there will be another at the end of the year.”

Public school teachers voted 73 per cent in favour — with 21,625 teachers voting yes and 7,846 voting no — of withdrawing extracurricular activities province-wide to force the provincial government’s hand in the ongoing labour dispute.

Education Minister George Abbott said Friday in Victoria the BCTF vote to ban extracurricular activities will divide teachers, punish students and leave parents overseeing functions like grad ceremonies.

“My hope is that the BCTF will not take any opportunity to insert so-called moral suasion to keep teachers from volunteering,” Abbott said.

“It’s their personal decision. And I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the BCTF to be trying to interfere in that. This is going to be a big issue for them if they try to do that.”

Despite the results on Friday there is still a possibility of a full withdrawal of services before the school year ends, Davidoff said. However, there would need to be another full membership vote across the province prior to any action — one that would likely land in the courts if pursued.

“That would be a very serious piece because that would attract the full fines and everything else. But (full withdrawal) would still be a possibility,” Davidoff concluded.

The action plan approved by the BCTF membership also calls for a public awareness campaign to mobilize public opposition to Bill 22 and work in advance of the May 2013 election “to bring in a new government” that will repeal the legislation.

— With files from Black Press

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