Greater Victoria parents won’t see their children’s report cards and might not have a chance at parent-teacher interviews, unless they schedule a meeting themselves.
Strike notice served last week by B.C. teachers take effect Sept. 6, the first day of school. It’s a teach-only strike, meaning for the most part, classes will operate as usual. However, the work-to-rule edict means teachers will not meet with principals or other administrators, fill out forms or assemble data.
“Teachers are very frustrated,” said Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association. “Teachers don’t understand how a government can publicly say they’re putting families first and can clearly afford big bonuses and severance packages for senior staff, but teachers that have been toiling for a decade under substandard conditions have to go back to those conditions this fall.”
In other school districts, teachers will stop supervising students on recess, but in the Greater Victoria school district, that responsibility was farmed out to CUPE staff in the 1990s.
In addition to provincial-level negotiatons, Ehrcke added, local teachers are seeking paid discretionary days, changes to wording in their workplace safety contract and changes to classroom size and composition.
As of Friday, no new talks had been scheduled.
In July, B.C. Teachers’ Federation negotiators tabled demands including wage parity with other provinces, doubled bereavement leave to provide 10 days paid leave on the death of a friend or relative, increased preparation time and a retirement bonus that would give departing teachers an extra five-per-cent payout for each year worked.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association says the pay demand would mean a 21-per-cent raise for some teachers to match Alberta rates. It calculates that the entire package of demands would cost an extra $2.2 billion.
The B.C. government has settled contracts with a majority of its unionized staff this year, working within a “net zero” budget mandate.
Education Minister George Abbott has repeatedly indicated that the same mandate applies to teacher talks, with any extra costs offset by savings in other contract areas.
– with files from Tom Fletcher