Teachers, admin to be 'walking on eggshells' at start of school: Burnaby Teachers
Following almost a full year of teacher job action, people can expect the climate in schools at the start of this year to be "tentative," said James Sanyshyn, the new president of the Burnaby Teachers Association (BTA).
"I think that people will still be walking on eggshells for the first little bit."
Sanyshyn noted that for most of last year, there was very little interaction between teachers and principals as a result of the job action.
"So that will be interesting to see the dynamic."
While there is no formal directive from the B.C. Teachers' Federation preventing teachers from volunteering in extra-curricular activities, Sanyshyn predicted that some will still decide not to participate.
"I think a lot of teachers will be considering their work-life balance and, given the climate and the treatment from government, will choose to participate or not."
Similarly, some teachers may choose not to use their own money—more than $1,000 for the average elementary teacher—for their classrooms as they typically do, he said.
The BTA will also continue its campaign to raise awareness of its concerns among Burnaby parents, such as its belief that this year, B.C. school district budgets are short a total of $100 million compared to last year, based on inflation alone.
Last school year was dominated by teachers' work-to-rule job action, including a refusal to produce report cards, which culminated in a three-day strike in March, before the provincial government legislated them back to work.
In late June, the two sides reached a mediated settlement which provided no wage increases and did not deal with major issues such as class sizes, but included an agreement that talks would continue over the government's contentious proposed changes to hiring, layoffs and performance evaluation of teachers.
The two-year deal expires at the end of this school year, June 30, 2013.
Sanyshyn said local and provincial bargaining will begin in March, 2013. The outcome of the provincial election in May is the "wildcard factor."
But he wasn't exactly confident that there would be no movement before election day.
"You never know. This government has brought in something like 20-plus pieces of legislation just for teachers in a decade," he said, noting that is more than any other group or teachers in any other province.
"The unfortunate part of that is it's hard for us to trust anything that they do" or even to trust the collective bargaining process, he said, "because we know they may be up to something."
Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes said, "We're anticipating a normal start to the school year with upwards of 23,000 kids coming back."
Hayes, a supporter of the New Democrats as a member of the Burnaby Citizens Association, said everyone knows what happened last year.
"It's sort of the elephant in the room," said Hayes.
He believes the upcoming provincial election will temper the reactions to anything the government might do and a change in government could mean "the bargaining process is more respected, which would be a positive."
At the same time, Hayes stressed a new government is no magic solution for the teachers.
"Let's not kid ourselves. As far as I know, there's not going to be a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow."