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Teachers stand pat on picket line
While school is out of session, Victoria teachers will be holding the line at two locations this summer, although with minimal attendance.
Tara Baird, who teaches at Monterey middle school, has taken 22 four-hour shifts picketing outside Greater Victoria school district headquarters on Tolmie Street, along with four other teachers from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Thanks to a $1.5 million donation from Ontario teachers, those who sign up to picket are given $50 per shift, a respite after not receiving any strike pay during the last two weeks of the school year.
“A lot of teachers have to take other jobs during the summer,” Baird said. “I’m just really lucky because my husband isn’t a teacher.”
Along with the school district headquarters, a two-person picket line is in place at Uplands elementary, which houses the Victoria International High School Program’s administrative offices.
The Tolmie and Uplands buildings are the only locations open during the summer in the school district, aside from the facilities department offices adjacent to Burnside elementary school, which teachers will not be picketing due to a court injunction.
“The point of a picket line is to disrupt the employers’ ability to do work as usual, and we can still do that during the summer,” said Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association vice-president Jason Gammon.
“We also need to keep the public informed on what’s going on… public support has been pretty positive so far.”
CUPE representative Kevin Rose said his union’s plan for the summer remains the same – if members see a picket line, they’ll respect it. He said that most CUPE workers across the province have been able to continue work as usual, though picketing “remains an issue in pockets.”
While numbers in Victoria have dwindled since the end of the school year, other school district’s such as Sooke are still seeing strong numbers.
Paul Waterlander, who teaches at Belmont secondary in Langford, said pickets are taking place at eight locations each day, with lines up to a dozen strong. He also said that a large protest event to be held in late August is currently in planning.
“We need to show people that teachers are committed to getting a good contract, and a good education system,” Waterlander said.
“We want school to start as normal on Sept. 2, and we want to be there teaching.”