As school teachers take centre stage with strike action across British Columbia right now, the message from those in Lake Cowichan is that they’d much rather be in school.
Chris Rolls, president of the Lake Cowichan Teachers Association, has said the teachers would rather there was no job action and highlights class size composition as a stumbling block in discussions with the provincial government.
“The teachers at the lake don’t want there to be any job action, but what choice do we have?” said Rolls. “Some people are believing by watching the news that the bargaining team at BC Teachers’ Federation are holding things up and we don’t believe that.”
Rolls says bargaining negotiations were going well just prior to Christy Clark’s re-election as premier and were being kept in a low key profile from the media.
But she also says that all changed when Clark got back into power.
“Bargaining was going well but when Christy Clark got re-elected it all fell apart. We’ve been without a contract for a year. There was a bargaining team at BCTF and they had a protocol to keep things out of the media and they were moving forward. But Clark then decided to give her own members an 18 per cent pay rise and fire the bargaining team, leaving just Peter Cameron basically in the negotiation room. Things have come to a grinding stop.”
Rolls also says class size composition has had a huge impact on classes in Lake Cowichan.
“We need the money from the government that they said they would put into all the upgrades. We would really like to still be in the classrooms. The government is locking us out.”
As it stands, the teachers are not allowed to be on school premises 45 minutes before or after school and must leave the grounds at lunchtime.
But Rolls says that is not a time that the teachers were getting paid for anyway.
“Before the bell rings and after the bell rings, that was our own time that we gave out to help the kids,” she said.
Rolls also doesn’t want the public to see the teachers as being ‘greedy’ and just out for the money.
“We are not too far off but class size composition is a huge thing.”