On May 9, the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) filed an application with the Labour Relations Board hoping for a declaration stating that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and its members have declared or authorized or are engaging in an illegal strike.
The BCPSEA states that services provided by teachers such as student tutorials, parent-teacher conferences, school-based team meetings, meetings with principals, class organization meetings, planning meetings for the next school year, collecting money from students, attending graduation ceremonies, and coaching are duties that are within the BCTF collective agreement and should not be neglected simply because they are outside of class or on teachers’ own time.
Erika Blume, president of the Lake Cowichan Teachers’ Association, says that BCPSEA is trying to muddy the waters about what is and is not in teachers’ contracts. All of the services provided by teachers, outside of class time, are services that have come to be part of the educational experience of students because teachers love their students and want them to succeed.
Services such as tutoring after school or at lunch time are not within teachers’ job description, but throughout the strike, teachers have been providing them using their own discretion. “I would suspect that most members of the LCTA are following the action plan, but there are still those who are acting autonomously,” says Blume.
The BCPSEA also states that the labour dispute “appears to be more about politics than about labour relations.”
Blume does not agree. She says that this latest attack from the BCPSEA is more about the employer flexing its muscles and impuning itself rather than saying that teachers work is legitimate. Blume states that none of the duties outlined in the BCPSEA application to the Labour Relations Board are part of a teacher’s normal work day or are within the collective agreement.
Using Dr. Jago as moderator is also a contentious issue. Jago was a consultant for Bill 22, and Blume says that to place him in the role of moderator is hypocritical.
“We’re democratic, we play by the rules. The BCTF tried to have him removed. This seems one sided.”
Right now the BCTF is staying unified, and this unity stems from what is seen by teachers as the aggressive nature of Bill 22. “The BCTF takes its leadership from its members,” says Blume. Teachers feel they did not have much left that they could do without promoting a full on strike and promoting illegal action. Blume says this action is something teachers can do to take a stand.