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Labour feud casts pall over end-of-school festivitiesMay 22, 2014

Author: Webmaster

Heightened tension between government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) raises questions about end-of-year activities, including field trips, award ceremonies, sporting events and graduation celebrations.

After the union announced plans for rotating strikes starting next week, the government’s side fired back late Wednesday with a letter saying teachers’ pay would be docked and a partial lockout would be imposed near the end of June.

That letter also ordered teachers not to attend their worksite more than 45 minutes before the start of instruction and not to stay longer than 45 minutes after instruction ends, except in the case of an urgent student safety issue.

BCTF president Jim Iker said that order would bar teachers from a range of year-end activities, including graduation ceremonies, and put an end to extra-curriculars.

Although the BCTF Stage 1 job action instructed teachers to attend their schools only one hour before-and-after instruction, it allowed teachers to continue with “pre-arranged voluntary activities”. That was to avoid upsetting parents and students at yearend.

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender tweeted his disagreement with Iker, saying teachers may decide if they want to continue with extracurriculars. Furthermore, he tweeted, “grad ceremonies can continue as they always have with help from administration and parents. Teachers are definitely welcome to attend.”

The government-controlled B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) tried to clarify the situation further with a question-and-answer news letter. Here is the pertinent section:

Q. Are teachers locked out or “banned” from participating in extracurricular activities such as graduation ceremonies, award ceremonies, sports events and year-end celebrations?

A. No. Teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, including on school property. There is nothing in the lockout that prevents BCTF members from continuing to participate in such activities as graduation, sports and awards events. If teachers choose not to participate in such activities, they do so as a result of their own decisions.

Q. Will the lockout apply to teachers who are on extended field trips (overseas trips,  extended overnight trips, etc.) with students?

A. No. Recognizing that we do not wish to put students or their financial contributions at risk, teachers who are supervising extended student field trips will be exempted from the lockout provisions (and the resulting loss of pay) for the full length of the excursion. Should a teacher withdraw from a previous field trip commitment, they do so as a result of their own decision. This lockout exemption does not apply to new field trips and/or trips of a minor nature that are short term or where there is no penalty for cancellation. Should a teacher on a long-term field trip refuse to supervise students because of the union’s strike action, the emergency supervision provisions of the essential service order may be applied.

Negotiations are continuing but the situation appears dire.

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and information presented here does not represent the views of the organization.

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