LITTLE PROGRESS BEING MADE AT BARGAINING TABLE
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - We’re only a couple days into phase one of teacher job action, though to some it’s beginning to seem more the normal than the exception as the teachers union and the province continue a nearly 10-year, off and on battle to reach an agreement.
Kamloops-Thompson School District Assistant Superintendent Karl de Bruijn says he hasn’t heard of any concerns from parents, students or staff but notes job action has only just begun and it is usually later in these job actions and strikes that problems begin to surface.
“It becomes more problematic as time goes on. When we’re pulling staff to do supervision they can’t do their own jobs so it gets tough on them over time,” de Bruijn says, pointing to maintenance and finance staff as examples. “They work late, put in extra hours or fall behind.”
SD73 is able to follow through on the teachers union promise students would not feel the impact of the job action. Administration has been able to organize staff to cover the necessary breaks.
“From an operation side, and this is very unfortunate, we’ve done this quite a few times,” de Bruijn notes. “It almost seems more normal than not.”
In other districts students are not so lucky. A total of 13 districts decided to cancel recess during job action, including the north and central Okanagan districts.
In the North Okanagan Shuswap School District administration decided to forgo the 15 minute morning break and instead is ending the school day 15 minutes earlier and the Central Okanagan district follows suit beginning Monday.
WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?
As for why there are problems coming to an agreement de Bruijn says there’s an obvious answer, though he questions why the union keeps using job action.
“The two sides are far, far apart, bargaining between teachers and province has been broken for a long, long time. But because it’s education they’re working hard to make sure it doesn’t affect students,” de Bruijn says, adding, “We don’t bargain at the local level, it’s a provincial matter. The idea behind (job action) is to put pressure on admin, and they’re very effective at doing that, but we have no impact on the bargaining table.”
He points out teachers continue to work and get paid and while it impacts administration he doesn’t believe it impacts anything at the bargaining table.
B.C. Teachers Federation member at large and second Vice President of the Kamloops Thompson Teachers’ Association David Komljenovic disagrees.
“Admin does have a direct role, there are reps at the table with us. Ultimately the superintendents have quite a bit of power within this government. This government does listen to superintendents and we do believe they have the ability to put pressure on the government,” Komljenovic says. “What we’ve seen through evidence in court is these types of phase one job actions do have the effect of reaching a settlement. Last time we did negotiate… the types of job action we were taking were very helpful in reaching that agreement.”
Komljenovic notes the union is still at the bargaining table with the province but says progress is slow. He says as long as the 10-year agreement is on the table there will not be much progress.
“The 10 years is a deal breaker, it’s too long for any agreement,” Komljenovic says. “We’re still continuing to negotiate, but it is causing issues at the table.”
He adds teachers never take job action or strikes lightly and at this point there is no contemplation of escalating beyond the current phase one of job action.
De Bruijn believes the biggest impact of stage one is the relationships it tears down, often between both teachers and administration and schools and parents.
“Every time we have these job actions we damage relationships, to me that’s the biggest problem in this whole thing. It’s very difficult to recover from,” de Bruijn notes. “It seems to just start to get back to normal and then we’re back on strike again. Is this the new normal? That would be a shame.
“People will be tolerant and flexible but if it drags on they will become less tolerant. I have the highest respect for teachers, principals, support staff, everyone… but anything that’s detrimental and damages, that is not good for anybody. And the longer it goes on the more profound the (damage) and the relational effects are harder to measure and quite damaging.”
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