Trustees vote for a mediator

School District 27 trustees support the appointment of a mediator in the stalled contract talks.

School District 27 trustees support the appointment of a mediator in the stalled contract talks between the B.C. Teacher’s Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association which represents government at the bargaining table.

The trustees voted at their regular meeting Tuesday to support the appointment of a mediator. The resolution was made in response to a request made last week by Chilcotin Teacher’s Association president Joan Erb.

Erb attended Tuesday’s meeting and thanked the board for their support.

The board’s resolution came on the same day as Education Minister George Abbott introduced Bill 22 Education Improvement Act which fulfills the BCTF’s request for a mediator and extends the teachers’ current contract until September for a “cooling off period.” The bill also imposes hefty fines on the BCTF and individual teachers if they engage in illegal strike action.

Bill 22 was introduced on the eve of teachers throughout the province poised to take a strike vote on Wednesday.

Tuesday the Labour Relations Board ruled teachers could engage in limited strike action.

Saying she was extremely tired, and looking visibly shaken, Erb asked the Cariboo-Chilcotin trustees to pay close attention to and read between the lines of Bill 22. She asked the trustees to consider what the real impact will be of losing Bill 33, which places limits on class sizes and class configuration.

Prior to the board’s vote, both Chair Will Van Osch and trustee Doug Neufeld declared that they are married to teachers. Van Osch noted both he and Neufeld did not have conflicts of interest in voting to support the appointment of a mediator because there are no pecuniary implications in the resolution.

Contract talks between the BCTF and BCPSEA began last April but after several months without any movement at the bargaining table teachers began phase one of their job action plan at the start of the new school year in September.

Essentially the teachers are refusing to meet with administrators, complete administrative duties such as compiling report cards, or provide out-of-class supervision.

In a statement last week Abbott maintained back-to-work legislation was needed because the teacher job action was hurting students.

On the contrary, Erb says, many teachers in this district report that they have had more and better communication with parents this year.

In addition, she says elementary teachers are writing updates on student progress in their student agendas for parents to read and secondary teachers are printing out interim reports so students know their grade per cent ages.

She says extra curricular activities have not been impacted. Science fairs, band concerts, fashion shows, sports events and other extra curricular activities are all happening as usual.

Erb also doesn’t believe that not participating in supervision is unduly hurting administrators and notes that in the 100 Mile House area, teachers have maintained supervision duties during the job action in keeping with a Labour Relations Board ruling related to administrative travel limits.

Chair Van Osch says he also doesn’t believe the teachers’ current job action is hurting students directly, although it may be hobbling the ability of districts to move ahead with the learning initiatives started with teachers a couple of years ago.

“We have been quite lucky. The CCTA has been as co-operative as they can be,” Van Osch says.