KAMLOOPS - Kamloops teachers are among the minority in the province not getting paid for the day they spent preparing their classrooms for the first day of school.
Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association President David Komljenovic says teachers showed good faith by showing up on the Friday before school was set to start, as well as evenings and weekends following the prolonged teacher strike that delayed the start of school by nearly three weeks, and the lack of support from the board is concerning.
“It’s a sign of disrespect,” Komljenovic says. “They won’t pay… or put pressure on the provincial government to pay.”
The teachers association first spoke with human resources about the issue, and then the labour liaison. With no answer forthcoming they asked to speak to the board but that request was denied this week as well.
Komljenovic says it goes against their rights while Board Chair Denise Harper says allowing them to speak would go against the agreement because it’s dealing with salary issues.
“They’re asking for money… I saw it as meeting the criteria,” Harper says. “It was no intention to be unfair, there’s no argument we’d love to pay the teachers. I don’t want anyone to think we wouldn’t like to pay the teachers but we can only do that if the minister releases another $300,000 plus. We don’t have the capacity, we don’t have the money.”
Harper says the district paid teachers according to the collective agreement but has sent a letter to the ministry asking for the extra money to pay for the additional day. The Kamloops district is one of 18 boards being represented by the B.C. School Trustees Association in the matter. Collective agreements vary from board to board which has caused a discrepancy in how many days teachers have been paid for this year.
Komljenovic says they do not accept the decision and notes it is outside of the collective agreement. He says it is frustrating that after more than five years with an agreement in place to speak at board meetings they are again being rejected their right to speak.
“Teachers in other districts were paid, and we were not. This is a return to work agreement, it’s outside of collective bargaining,” he says, adding his frustration with not being allowed to speak. “Our district is one of few that tries to stifle ability of employee groups to speak. I’m not going to say we’re going to initiate arbitration, but it’s open to us.”
Komljenovic says even more frustrating is the fact they haven’t even been invited to discuss the matter behind closed doors, which makes him question the sincerity of the board.
“They haven’t invited us to discuss at an in-camera meeting either,” he says. “It’s about fairness. There’s an election coming up, the trustees can’t hide.”
In the meantime teachers and supporters plan to rally at the school board office on Monday at 6:30 p.m. Komljenovic says the rally will be quiet and peaceful and there are also plan to attend the meeting immediately afterwards to add even more pressure on the board. The pressure will continue as we head into the November elections as well, with the association planning an all-candidates meeting early next month.
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