Report cards will go home next week

Little disciplinary action can be taken against teachers who defy order and volunteer their time

It may have taken two B.C. Labour Relations Board rulings, but parents should begin seeing report cards as early as Monday.

On April 20, the LRB ruled report cards were due by the end of this week – a directive aimed at all members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association initially was the lone holdout until the LRB issued a second directive aimed at the GVTA. In a membership meeting Monday afternoon, Victoria teachers voted to comply with that ruling.

“We called the meeting thinking that people would want to review the information, and they did,” GVTA president Tara Ehrcke said. “We felt we needed to give everybody the chance to come back and discuss (the first) order and what teachers wanted to do in response.”

What if teachers defy BCTF?

Meanwhile, teachers have just completed their first week of school after the provincial union voted April 17-19  to withdraw from voluntary extracurricular activities.

The BCTF voted 73 per cent in favour of ramping up resistance to the Education Improvement Act with an action plan that includes no longer coaching or participating in club activities outside of paid work hours.

According to the BCTF code of ethics, there are relatively minor disciplinary measures that local teachers’ associations can take against teachers who choose to continue to volunteer their time. Teachers who fail to comply could face reprimand or removal from local association boards.

“We made a democratic decision and the hope is that the vast majority of teachers will abide by that democratic decision on their own, understanding that once we vote, we act together in unison,” Ehrcke said.

Fines are only applicable if members choose to cross picket lines.

BCTF president Susan Lambert confirmed the union has no plans at present to move from the current stage of resistance toward another full-scale walkout, as it did in March.

Lambert admitted a withdrawal from extracurricular activities was a tough decision.

“Very reluctantly, we come to this, but we have to make a stand when we’re being attacked in such a ham-fisted, heavy-handed way,” she said. “It’s a sad day when it comes to this, but there has to be something done about this latest legislative assault on public education.”

Reaction from the province

Education Minister George Abbott told reporters the BCTF vote to ban extracurricular activities will divide teachers, punish students and leave parents overseeing functions such as grad ceremonies.

“It’s their personal decision,” Abbott said. “And I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the BCTF to be trying to interfere in that.”

Abbott also defended his choice of a mediator in the dispute, Charles Jago, who the BCTF alleges is biased.

If talks with the BCTF fail to reach a mediated settlement, the government would likely legislate a retroactive two-year contract, ending June 30, 2013.

Abbott said he can’t guarantee the dispute won’t disrupt the start of the school year next September.

The Education Improvement Act was passed March 15, following months of work-to-rule job action by the province’s 41,000 teachers and a provincewide walkout March 5. The legislation includes fines of $1.3 million a day for the union and $475 a day for individual teachers who continue to strike.

-with files from Jeff Nagel

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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