Teachers set to vote on action plan mid-April

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
March 31st, 2012

With spring break coming to an end, Boundary teachers are returning to business as usual Monday, April 2, at least until a province-wide vote is taken April 17 and 18 to accept an action plan to challenge Bill 22.

“In our district, phase one is over and job action is over. We’re back to somewhat normal conditions,” said Norm Sabourin, Boundary Teachers’ Association president.

Teachers will be supervising, attending staff meetings and communicating with administration and I’m sure administration will be very happy about that.

Sabourin spent half of the spring break at the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) Annual General Meeting in Vancouver where 700 members spent three days hashing out an action plan to address their issues with Bill 22, The Education Improvement Act, which includes the appointment of a mediator to aid in directing the negotiation process.

“It’s clear from the recent BCTF AGM that many teachers want to move beyond the constant confrontation with government and take a more constructive approach,” Education Minister George Abbott stated in a recent press release. “I encourage teachers to carefully consider how they want to move forward. Mediation provides a real opportunity to bridge the differences at the bargaining table and do what’s best for students.”

On Wednesday, March 28, the province appointed Dr. Charles Jago to mediate. Jago, past president of the University of Northern British Columbia and recipient of the Order of Canada, is the author of the 2006 report, Working Together to Improve Performance: preparing BC’s Public Education System for the Future.

If a new agreement cannot be reached by June 30, Jago will make a non-binding recommendation to government.

The vote

On April 17 and 18 teachers will be voting on the plan designed by the BCTF during their AGM.

The plan includes a full-withdrawal of services if teachers aren’t given a fair and respectful opportunity to bargain for their collective agreement.

“A yes vote doesn’t mean teachers will be walking but that they could if they choose to,” said Sabourin, adding that a vote can be used within six months before the subject must be voted on again.

While a full walkout is illegal under Bill 22, teachers are preparing to do so if the government continues to push them.


Extracurricular activities may be stopped

While teachers are back in the classroom filling out the paperwork and providing a constructive learning environment, don’t be surprised if school teams are cancelled and spring concerts put on hold. That’s because every teacher has the right to stop providing extracurricular activities — that is activities that don’t fall within a regular school day — because it’s not in their agreement.

Sabourin says thousands of the province’s 41,000 teachers have already chosen to voluntarily stop doing extracurricular services even before the action plan vote has happened. Sabourin anticipates some of our local teachers will join the group.

“(Extracurricular activities) is the fun part,” said Sabourin, who as a teacher also enjoyed providing that little extra to his students. “Most kids don’t mind the classroom but it isn’t always the fun part for them … What kids think of as fun is the extra sports, music and art.”

If I was in the classroom, I would choose to teach only and use (the withdrawal of extracurricular activities) as a conversation starter with parents.

“It is unfortunate for students and teachers that the BCTF plan encourages the withdrawal from extracurricular activities,” said Abbott in a press release. “I respect the choice of individual teachers to volunteer and I know that for many teachers, extracurricular activities are the best part of their day. They find it rewarding to interact with kids who are passionate about the same things they are.”

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