Local schools could be without coaches for sports teams, and directors for school plays after Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour to stop volunteering for extracurricular activities should the provincial government legislate them back to work.
More than 800 local teachers took part in a special meeting Wednesday morning at The ACT in Maple Ridge, with an estimated 90 per cent voting in favour of the motion.
Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said any such withdrawal of services would be voluntary, however, as anything enforced by the union could be considered job action, and thus illegal once the province’s back-to-work legislation becomes law.
“This is not something that we want to do, but teachers are at the point where we don’t feel like we have a lot of options,” Serra said.
He added that the role of the union will be to let teachers know what is and what isn’t required of them, according to their contract. The result will be similar to the Phase 1 job action teachers took part in after contract negotiations with the province broke down last summer.
“We will be educating teachers to work to their contract and do exactly what their job entails,” he said. “Meet the teacher night is not a requirement, for example.”
However, Serra stressed there will be no repercussions from the union for teachers who decide to continue volunteering their time for extracurricular school activities.
“It will be a challenge, but it will be individual teachers who make the choice whether or not to take part,” he said.
“There’s a lot of what-ifs, but if this legislation passes, it won’t be business as usual.”
The province’s back-to-work legislation, Bill 22, will bring an end to teachers’ ongoing job action, which resulted in a three-day walkout this week.
Bill 22 also scraps the class size and composition requirements introduced under Bill 33 in 2006. This will result in larger class sizes and less protection for students with special needs, says Serra.
“These are our working conditions we’re talking about. We want the ability to grieve them, if necessary.”
While Bill 22 lays out a mediation process for the ongoing contract dispute, it specifically forbids class size and composition from being negotiated.
Teachers were back to work Thursday morning after their three-day walkout, and aren’t planning on further strike action next week.
Last week’s Labour Relations Board ruling gave B.C. teachers the right to hold their initial three-day walkout, followed by a one-day walkout every five school days. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation said they won’t be holding a one-day strike next week, with many school districts across the province beginning spring break, including School District No. 42.
Kanaka Creek elementary, which operates on a year-round calendar, is still in session next week, and will have classes as normal as a result.
Trustees to province: Give teachers a say in choice of mediator
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education is calling on the provincial government to select a mediator that both the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers Association can agree on, rather than appointing one.
The BCTF and BCPSEA, the provincial government’s bargaining agent, have been embroiled in a contract dispute since last June, resulting in a three-day walkout by teachers this week.
The provincial government is currently considering back-to-work legislation, called Bill 22, that will appoint a mediator to look at a number of outstanding contract issues.
“The board supports mediation in favour of legislation,” board chair Mike Murray said at Wednesday’s regular meeting. “But both parties need to be involved in selecting the mediator.”
However, trustees stopped short of calling for Bill 22 to be scrapped altogether, as the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association had asked them to do.
MRTA president George Serra said he was disappointed by the board’s stance.
“There are other aspects of Bill 22 that are extremely offensive to teachers,” he said, such as the stripping of the right to bargain class size and composition. “The board did not address these other conditions.”
Former school board trustee Mike Huber was present at Wednesday’s board meeting, and said trustees should have stood up for teachers.
“As a member of the public, I’m disappointed,” he said. “They took the safe route. I believe as a trustee, you have to take a stand for public education, and they didn’t do that.”