Threatened job action by the province’s teachers is unlikely to affect students at the classroom level, according to representatives from both Okanagan Skaha School District and the local teachers’ union.
Earlier this week, the B.C. Teachers Federation released the results of their provincewide strike vote. About 70 per cent of the province’s teachers took part in the vote, with 90 per cent of them voting in favour of taking job action in September, if a new contract hasn’t been settled.
The initial phase of job action is set to begin on Sept. 6, the first day of the upcoming school year. Teachers will continue teaching, fulfilling all their classroom duties, and communicating with parents. However, they will stop doing administrative work.
“I really don’t think students are going to see a change in the classroom. I think teachers are committed to serving students and working hard on all those goals with kids,” said Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union. “What they what to do with this job action phase is simply get a message through to their employer. We won’t do that in this stage by changing how we teach … parents and kids probably won’t see any big change.”
Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the Okanagan Skaha School District, said it isn’t the first time teachers, who have been declared an essential service, have gone to this sort of job action during labour negotiations; not meeting with administration to deal with some of the day-to-day things, school goals and school improvement, administrative type tasks that need to be done
“It’s inconvenient and what it means is that sometimes those things get pushed to the side and you can’t do anything with them until everything is settled,” said Hyer. “We’ve pretty much dealt with all of the local articles and we’re all waiting to see what is going to happen at the provincial level. It falls in the hands of the BCTF and the bargaining unit for the private sector.”
“I am hopeful that this strong vote from teachers is heard by the government … and that they in turn give some direction,” said Epp, who wants the province’s bargaining units to get down to business. “I don’t, at this point, think there are any other dates set for them to meet, other than into August.”
The local bargaining units also won’t be active over the summer, but that is because they have dealt with most of the items that have been set out for them.
“OSTU did discuss all those items that the other side was willing to discuss. We have come to conclusions on most of those items by signing off on four of them, tentatively, by having two that have reached impasse, and we’re asking that they be looked at further, perhaps by the provincial (bargaining) tables but they haven’t got going on their other items,” said Epp.