Maple Ridge father demands end to teacher job action

Alan Richards starts Facebook group Where’s my Kid’s Report Card?’

Maple Ridge father Alan Richards wants teachers to end their job action and he’s taken to the Internet to tell them so.

Richards has started a Facebook group called “Where is my Kid’s Report Card?,” and is calling on the B.C. teachers’ union to accept the provincial government’s zero-net mandate of freezing public sector wages and end their job action, which includes not writing report cards and limiting extracurricular activities.

Richards says he wants the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to stop using kids as “pawns” in their contract dispute.

“This isn’t an attack on teachers, it’s about a policy decision by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation,” Richards said. “I understand they are trying to negotiate [with the provincial government], but leave my kids alone.”

Because of the ongoing job action which started in September, Richards, who has a child in high school and one in elementary, says he has struggled to find out how his children are progressing in school. While some teachers have made themselves available, others have not.

“It’s difficult to coordinate with five, six, or seven different teachers, especially for two working parents” he said. “Not all teachers are responding to parent requests.”

Richards said he felt a lack of control over what was happening to his kids, so he decided to take to Facebook and create a group where like-minded parents could voice their concerns. After a week of existence, the group has close to 100 members.

“Parents are frustrated, and they’re afraid to speak out, [thinking] it will get taken out on their kids,” said Richards. “But it’s our responsibility, as parents, to get involved and make ourselves heard.”

He thinks many teachers are caught in the middle as well, and aren’t fans of the ongoing job action.

“I get the feeling that many just don’t agree with it, but they don’t want to speak out because they are afraid of retribution,” Richards said.

Close to 90 per cent of the BCTF’s 41,000-strong membership voted in favour of job action in June, with close to 70 per cent voter turnout.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation announced salary demands last week amounting to a 15 per cent increase over three years, at an additional cost of $300 million over the span of the contract.

Provincial education minister George Abbott dismissed the demand as “absurd.”

“I have to agree with [Education Minister George Abbott], that [teachers’ wage demands] are not realistic given the current economic climate,” said Richards. “When the government had money, they doled it out. But that’s not the case right now, so to me, it’s not logical.”

In 2006, B.C. teachers signed a five-year contract with a 16 per cent increase in wage and benefits, as well as a $4,000 signing bonus.

“It looks to me like the government, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they’re being quite reasonable,” Richards said.

He is also considering starting an online petition to urge teachers to end their job action.