Local teachers protest possible legislated contract

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
February 28th, 2012

About 30 School District 51 teachers marched along Central Avenue in Grand Forks after school Monday, Feb. 27 to protest the B.C. Government’s proposal to legislate a contract after nearly a year of failed negotiations.

Local teachers bounced homemade placards, which included comments like “Kid’s Matter, Teachers Care” and “Quality Education Needs Value”, while they walked along Central Avenue by the Trans Canada Trail and Overwaitea for about an hour.

They joined the 40,000 other teachers in this province-wide job action, which included union meetings during lunch hour and a protest after school.

“Education is important and it seems the government is undervaluing it,” said Deanna Hnatiw, a Grand Forks teacher, during the protest. “They’re giving themselves pay raises and the public workers are not getting what they need. Also the class sizes, right now I’m teaching a class of 29 and it’s tough. The smaller the class size the better for kids so not only teachers are suffering, the kids are suffering too from the lack of support from the government.”

Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teacher’s Association, was pleased with the turn out, which was higher than he expected.

“We’re concerned that they are not treating us well,” said Sabourin during a phone interview shortly before the protest, which started at about 4 p.m.

“Teachers are justifiably angry. Offering nothing and demanding deep concessions completely disrespects the deep commitment teachers bring to their work, and leads us to conclude there was never any intention to bargain a collective agreement,” said B.C. Teachers` Federation (BCTF) president Susan Lambert in a press release. “More than that, we’re worried and upset about the continued damage this government is doing to public education, with at least $100 million in cuts to come next year from inflationary pressures on a flat budget. B.C. kids need and deserve more from this government.”

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011 and have been in negotiations with the government since March 2011. Among the issues they can`t seem to get past with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) is wages, class sizes and job seniority.

Wages are one of the major areas of dispute. Teachers want a 15 per cent increase in wages and the government has a net-zero mandate for public employees.

As part of their job action, teachers have discontinued supervisory roles and administration work, which includes issuing report cards.

As of Friday, Feb. 24 the BCTF had applied to the Labour Relations Board under the essential services order to strike if government refuses to participate in mediation or arbitration.

Sabourin said the province-wide actions today, in response to Education Minister George Abbotts comment late last week about legislating a contract, have had an impact on Abbott. He said the minister has decided to postpone the decision to impose legislation.

Teachers are voting on a full-scale walkout on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and Wednesday, Feb. 29. They will make the results public on Thursday, March 1. Please watch our site for more details.

– with notes from Boundary Sentinel Editor, Mona Mattei.

Categories: GeneralIssues