Teachers begin job action

The current teacher job action will have little effect on parents and students, says the president of the Burnaby Teachers Association.

The job action, which started Wednesday, is an administrative strike. It's really aimed at "putting pressure on our managers so that they will in turn put pressure on their provincial counterparts to try and get a deal resolved at the bargaining table," said James Sanyshyn.

The BC Teachers Federation has been in negotiations for a new contract with the provincial government for months.

Teachers will not provide supervision at recess. That will have to be done by non-unionized employees, such as principals, vice-principals and district senior management.

Teachers will also not attend regular staff meetings with administrators. The exceptions will be health and safety meetings and those involving emergencies.

Communication with parents and parent-teacher conferences will not be affected, Sanyshyn said.

"What doesn't continue as usual is communication with ourselves and our managers, if you will, our principals. So we're not going to be reading their emails, we're not going to be providing them with written documentation and we won't be receiving those either from them, for example."

There is essentially an overtime ban as well. Unless teachers are volunteering for extra-curricular activities such as coaching sports, they must not arrive more than an hour before class or leave later than an hour after classes end.

This first phase of job action is similar to that seen two years ago in B.C. schools.

Sanyshyn said its effectiveness depends on who you ask.

Principals are likely to agree that their lives will be made more difficult. The last time there were complaints of principals experiencing burnout and increased sick leave, he said.

It may never be known for sure whether the job action worked for the teachers last time. But, he noted, "We didn't end up with a legislated agreement at the end of the day, last time. Through concerted effort we negotiated a contract before the end of the school year, after having engaged in that stage one for a number of months."

There's no set timeframe as to when job action will escalate. That will depend on progress at the bargaining table and whether retaliatory action will be taken by the province, he said.

"We hope that just by starting this job action the bargaining will become a more serious, concerted effort for all the parties and we'll get closer to a deal."

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