Sports tournaments and graduation ceremonies could be the latest casualties in the ongoing labour dispute between public school teachers and the province.
Teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of further resisting the Liberals’ back-to-work-legislation in a plan that includes pulling out of extracurricular activities such as coaching and graduation ceremony planning. It’s a clear message that has left more uncertainty among parents and educators alike.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation announced Friday (April 20) that 73 per cent of teachers who participated in a provincewide vote support stepping up their protests against Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act. A total of 21,625 teachers voted in favour of the federation’s action plan, while 7,846 voted against further action.
Meanwhile on the same day, the B.C. Labour Relations Board ordered teachers to immediately prepare report cards for work completed from the beginning of the year until March 17 in addition to June report cards. The reports are due by April 27 (Friday).
For School Bike League commissioner Eric Simonson of Oak Bay High, the vote comes at a bad time for athletics.
“Many coaches (like me) think it is unfair to withdraw from extracurricular (activities),” he said. “I know other coaches will keep coaching despite the vote.”
In the Saanich School District, which covers the Peninsula and the northern tip of Saanich, teachers began withdrawing from extracurricular activities prior to the BCTF vote. Though the Saanich Teachers’ Association voted in March in favour of withdrawing from extracurricular activities, some individual teachers continued to participate, confirmed association president Sean Hayes.
How participation may change once the directive comes from the provincial federation is unknown, Hayes said.
The plan also launches a public awareness campaign and opens the possibility of a second union vote on a full walkout.
In a BCTF release, union president Susan Lambert called the decision to withdraw from extracurricular activities wrenching.
“Teachers struggle with this because these activities bring so much joy to our engagement with students,” Lambert said. “We know this will mean the loss of some highly-valued activities, and we sincerely regret that. But we have to look at the bigger picture and the longer term.”
The Education Improvement Act was passed March 15 following months of work-to-rule job action by the province’s 41,000 teachers and a provincewide walkout March 5. The legislation includes fines of $1.3 million a day for the union and $475 a day for individual teachers who continue to strike.
While talks between teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association centred around class size and composition, as well as teacher prep time, the two sides were ultimately polarized over the government’s unwillingness to diverge from a two-year freeze on wage increases.
– with a file from Travis Paterson