Job action threatens school start

With less than a week to go before the start of school parents and students are uncertain if teachers will be in the classroom or not.

Teachers in School District 51 (Boundary) returned to the picket line outside schools on Tuesday morning

Teachers in the West Boundary returned to the picket line on Tuesday morning outside of Greenwood Elementary School. The teachers, who have been without a contract since June 2013, walked off the job two weeks before the end of the school year last June.

School District 51 (Boundary) Board of Education issued a press release on Monday acknowledging the impact that the current labour dispute is having on students and warning parents that school opening is in jeopardy unless a deal is reached by September 2nd.

Boundary District Teacher’s Association (BDTA) vice-president Debra Klockenbrink was one of the teachers outside the school on Tuesday. She said she is proud to be a teacher at Grand Forks Perley School. “But Christy Clark’s government is claiming to have put in $1 billion over the last ten years into the education fund. But what they are neglecting to say is that they have taken out $3 billion. So when they put back $1 billion we’re still missing $2 billion. Think of what the education system could be if we had that $2 billion. We wouldn’t have kids going into Grade 8 and not being able to read; we would have help for them. We would have courses at Midway school that would allow students to graduate and go on to university and not try to find courses that they are going to need. Please support us; and Christie let’s mediate. Let’s get a deal so we can go back to school on September 2.”

“The SD 51 Board of Education understands that our entire community wants our schools open on September 2nd,” said the school board release sent out by Board Chair Teresa Rezansoff. “We are actively advocating for a negotiated settlement to the dispute in time for school start up on September 2, 2014.”

“We are hopeful that British Columbia Public Schools Employers Association (BCPSEA) and the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) will resume negotiations and that mediator Vince Ready will work with the parties to help bring about a resolution prior to the beginning of school.”

“The needs of our students must be placed first.”

BDTA president Norm Sabourin said teachers have their fingers crossed that BCTF President Jim Iker can convince the Liberals to come to the table and allow Vince Ready to mediate a deal.

“I don’t know how many times in the last couple of weeks education minister Fassbender has been talking that the government is ready to bargain 24/7,” said Sabourin. “Talk’s cheap. They will not set a date; they will not come to the table – they are avoiding, avoiding, avoiding.”

When asked to comment on the state of the BCTF strike fund Sabourin said, “It is pretty well known that our strike fund is pretty much depleted, but this comes down to a philosophical battle and even though teachers across the province are hurting we still have solidarity. We are fighting for public education, we are fighting for our future of trying to educate your kids and the longer it goes the more difficult it becomes.”

“Hopefully we don’t have to hold any longer than this week. We definitely want to get back to the classrooms working with the kids.”

Normally teachers would be in the schools this week preparing for the start of school.

“We need mediation to get a deal,” said Sabourin. “Vince Ready is ready to work with us; the government knows it and they have been avoiding the whole mediation process because they don’t want to have to bend at all.”

The first face-to-face meeting since the dispute began was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Victoria between Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BC Teachers Federation President Jim Iker and British Columbia Public Schools Employers Association (BCPSEA) chief negotiator Peter Cameron.