French Immersion teacher Julie Fisher goes through books as she cleans shelves to get ready for the new school year at Reynolds secondary school.

French Immersion teacher Julie Fisher goes through books as she cleans shelves to get ready for the new school year at Reynolds secondary school.

Labour dispute on back burner for school year

The relationship between B.C. teachers and government remains on the mend, but a new teachers’ contract has put discord on temporary hiatus

The relationship between B.C. teachers and government remains on the mend, but a new teachers’ contract has put discord on temporary hiatus as schools in Greater Victoria open this week – although not everyone was celebrating.

“It’s mixed emotions for sure,” said Sean Hayes, president of the Saanich School District Teachers’ Association. “It’s relief that we’re entering the school year in a much more settled state with the prospects of a quiet and relatively peaceful year.

“That’s a relief, but we’re also not happy because the major issues for teachers remain unchanged: oversized classes, poor support for special needs students and dwindling resources.”

After a year of stalled contract negotiations and six months of work-to-rule job action culminating in a walkout last March, B.C.’s 41,000 public school teachers came to a collective agreement on June 26.

The short-term contract, which is valid until June 2013, offers some degree of relief for Hayes. But others, such as Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Tara Ehrcke, stands vehemently against the plan.

Though unlikely, the possibility exists of job disruptions through the fall, Ehrcke said.

“There will be a lot of teachers returning to school this fall with a real sense of disappointment and we’re also going to see some larger classes than we’ve seen in a number of years,” Ehrcke said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see individual teachers taking a step back from some extracurricular activities, simply because they have larger classes and more responsibilities.”

Although teachers are happy to be heading back to work fully and completely, Hayes said, they are upset about how the last round of bargaining went.

“There may be a little holdover,” he added.

During an Aug. 28 teleconference, Education Minister George Abbott said he was hoping for a much more positive, harmonious year in terms of labour relations.

“We do have the second year of the two-year agreement still to go,” Abbott said. “That will likely see, perhaps in March or April, a recommencement of bargaining discussions, but I’m hoping that this year gives us an opportunity to try to build at least a little better relationship between government and the teachers’ federation and between government educational partners, including the teachers’ federation.”

Abbott will not be involved in much of those discussions, however, since after 16 years as an MLA, he announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in the spring.

“We’ve been in the same drama for 40 years,” Thomas Fleming, University of Victoria professor emeritus in education, said in an interview earlier this year.

“Teachers complaining about government; government saying teachers are withholding services. The dialogue doesn’t change; the actors don’t change. Essentially this dialogue is no dialogue. It’s not going any place. It’s a system built for another age.”

Despite the history of unrest at the provincial level, teachers and administrators are expecting a relatively calm school year across the region.

After 11 years as superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District, John Gaiptman said 2011-12 was by far the most difficult year in the role, and like others on both sides of the dispute, he’s looking forward to a smoother road ahead.

“Last year was a tough year on everybody,” Gaiptman said. “This year we are really focused on the important things and the important thing is creating classes that are flexible and relevant and engaging for our students … that will be the reason for any actions we take.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Black, executive director of Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens, is working on years of deferred maintenance around the house and property. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Point Ellice House in Victoria looks to patch up during pandemic

Woodpeckers, leaks and rot keep museum head busy

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

Walkers ascend Mount Douglas Park on Sunday, Feb. 7. Visits to Saanich Parks are up 46 per cent compared to pre-pandemic statistics this time last year. (Darrell Wick Photo)
Oak Bay, Saanich parks peak in popularity during pandemic

Oak Bay spent an extra $5,000 on park toilet paper in 2020

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read