Penticton teachers claim they were short-changed on first payday after strike

Local teachers have re-engaged in battle with the Okanagan Skaha School District over a claim they were shorted a day’s wages.

Sharol Papp (left) and Carmi Elementary School instructor Leanne Stewart work with Sharol's daughter Paige Johnston

Sharol Papp (left) and Carmi Elementary School instructor Leanne Stewart work with Sharol's daughter Paige Johnston

Fresh off their summer-long labour dispute, local teachers have re-engaged in battle with the Okanagan Skaha School District over a claim they were shorted a day’s wages on their first paycheque of the 2014-15 session.

“It’s almost as if there’s a feeling that teachers are being kicked,” Penticton Secondary School instructor Bill Laven told the school board at its meeting Monday.

“When the province said the teachers would get eight days’ pay and in this district the teachers got seven days’ pay, it left a bit of a poor taste in the mouths of the teachers.”

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the issue stems from the way in which educators are paid.

Teachers’ salaries are divided into 10 monthly installments of 20 days’ pay, although in some months they work more than 20 days and in others they work less, but it balances out over the year, she explained.

For example, this September should have consisted of 21 working days for which teachers would have received 20 days’ pay.

Due to the strike, however, teachers had 13 days deducted from their 20-day salary, leaving them seven days’ pay, despite the fact they actually worked eight, including one day of classroom preparation before students returned.

Hyer insisted, though, that pay was calculated in accordance with terms of teachers’ collective agreement in her district.

“In our minds, they’ve received their pay,” she said.

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Woodward said members “understand (administrators’) math on how they come to that through the collective agreement, but what we’re arguing is this is outside of the collective agreement.”

She said the B.C. government agreed during negotiations to pay teachers for eight days in September, as most school districts have, and Okanagan Skaha should find a way to make it work.

Hyer, however, said other districts operate under different collective agreements and she’s been told there is no additional money available from the B.C. government to pay for the extra day.

Ministry of Education spokesman Scott Sutherland said the issue is a matter for individual districts to handle.

“All teachers have been fully paid pursuant to the local provisions of the collective agreement. And these are provisions that, in most cases, have been in place for many years,” he said.

“In Okanagan Skaha, if teachers feel that their district is not following the terms of their local agreements, they have well-established procedures to resolve the issue.”

That still doesn’t wash with teachers.

“It doesn’t sit right that you do a day’s work that was agreed to and you’re not getting paid for it,” said Woodward.

“There are 42 or 43 other districts that have seen the light and who have realized that, yes, this is a separately negotiated day, and they have paid their teachers for that day of work.”

Teachers in Coquitlam were set to rally Tuesday to draw attention to the issue, although Woodward said her union local would likely continue the fight through the formal grievance process.

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