Teachers taking strike vote this week

Teachers say disruption for students, withdrawal of teachers from extracurricular activities or job actions affecting report cards and communication with parents are not currently on the table. - Andrew Leong/file
Teachers say disruption for students, withdrawal of teachers from extracurricular activities or job actions affecting report cards and communication with parents are not currently on the table.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Cowichan Valley teachers will be taking a strike vote Tuesday through Thursday along with their provincial counterparts.

"The BCTF has come to the table with packages that are totally unacceptable,'' said Cowichan District Teachers' Association president Naomi Nilsson.

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker announced B.C. teachers will vote on another strike mandate due to "unreasonable proposals'' from the province's negotiating team that includes wages lower than what other public sector unions have received, and a continual refusal to put class size and special needs support limits back into the contract.

"Essentially with regard to the strike vote, it is just a vote at this point,'' said Nilsson. "There is no date for job action if it is going to happen.''

A BCTF news release indicated once a strike vote is taken, the union would have 90 days to activate some sort of job action.

Job action would occur in stages, the release said, but would not involve school closures or disruption for students, withdrawal of teachers from extracurricular activities or affect report cards and communication with parents.

"We're not talking about a full escalation,'' said Nilsson.

"I don't think in the history of the BCTF we've had a 'no' vote,'' she added. "We've tended to always be in support of what's happening provincially.''

Peter Cameron, appointed last year as chief negotiator for B.C.'s 60 school boards, said Tuesday he is surprised the union is going to a strike vote without tabling its complete position.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Court of Appeal suspended a lower court ruling Wednesday that would force B.C.'s school districts to reorganize around teacher contract terms scrapped by the government in 2002.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the latest turn in the long-running legal battle with the BCTF allows stability for parents and students while negotiations continue on class size and other issues.

He said the decision provides a "stable environment'' for school districts to prepare for next September under existing arrangements.

B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff said in a news release the association welcomes the news. "Through the stay ruling, there is a recognition of the disruption that would have been felt by the public education system and Boards of Education had there been immediate implementation of the January 27 ruling,'' she said.

"I believe they still need to see if the appeal will be heard at this point and the appeal still needs to be ruled on,'' said Nilsson.

Neither Cowichan School District Superintendent Joe Rhodes nor secretary-treasurer Bob Harper would comment due to the speculative nature of the ruling.

On another note, SD 79 changed the format for its parent-teacher interviews. They were not being run after school and into the evening but only until the dismissal bell.

"The reason for the proposed change is to allow the district to utilize their days in lieu as staff development days,'' pointed out Nilsson in a news release. "Teachers believe evening parent teacher interviews are more valuable to student learning than district-led staff development days.

The district may opt for the afternoon interview format in the 2014-15 school year, Nilsson added. With that in mind, she suggested parents make their opinions known to the district via email or by attending the Wednesday board meeting at the Cowichan Secondary School Quamichan Campus at 7 p.m.

— with a file from Tom Fletcher, Black Press

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