Union won’t ‘go after’ teachers who violate extracurricular volunteering ban

Maple Ridge Teachers Association already getting questions about colleagues who are still helping out, outside of class

While B.C. teachers voted last week to take their ban on extracurricular volunteering province-wide, some local teachers may be planning on defying the directive.

Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said he has already fielded questions from teachers concerned their colleagues might be violating the extracurricular ban, as well as from teachers concerned about the repercussions if they should continue volunteering.

Last week more than 21,500 teachers voted to adopt the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s Bill 22 action plan, the provincial teachers’ union’s response to the Liberal Government’s back-to-work legislation, which ended the teacher’s job action last month. The action plan includes a ban on extracurricular volunteering, meaning teachers will no longer coach school sports teams or organize after-school events and productions.

Serra said any teacher who opposes the ban or is planning to defy it, had a chance to speak out against it at the MRTA’s general meeting last month, when local teachers voted in favour of their own voluntary extracurricular ban.

“If they had issues, the opportunity to speak against [the ban on extracurricular volunteering] was there,” he said. “But no one did. Not one person spoke against it. Of the 800 people there, there might have been five hands that went up against it, but I doubt there would have been 10.”

However, Serra said the provincial teachers’ union isn’t going to seek out and punish teachers for volunteering.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to go after any teacher,” he said. “Even in past strikes, teachers that have crossed the picket lines haven’t [faced discipline].”

However, Serra noted those who defy the collective action of the union will usually end up being alienated by their fellow teachers.

“At the end of the day, they have to look their colleagues in the eye,” he said.

Just a week after the vote, the effects of the ban are already being felt by school sports teams.

This week, B.C. School Sports announced it was cancelling the provincial championships for golf and mountain biking, while track and field is being considered. Currently, rugby, badminton, tennis, and girls’ soccer provincials are going ahead as scheduled.

However, Serra said the effects of the ban go far beyond school sports.

“There are very few teachers don’t incorporate volunteerism as part of their job,” Serra said. “There’s assemblies, concerts, intermurals, clubs.”

No teacher wants to ban extracurricular volunteering, but Serra said teachers have no other options left.

“We didn’t want to get to this point, but Bill 22 has given us no choice,” said Serra. “We have no right to strike, because the government has put us in this position.”