Teachers face pay cuts, lockouts if job action continues
Pay cuts and a lockout are a possibility for striking B.C. teachers, whose union could also be forced to pay their benefits, says a spokeswoman for the association that negotiates teachers' contracts for the government.
Melanie Joy, chairwoman for the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, said Saturday that those options are designed to put pressure on teachers so they don't escalate job action that began last month on the first day back to school.
"There isn't a school district in this province that isn't feeling some sort of pressure at this point," Joy said.
"It's a big concern for the strike to escalate and it's also a big concern to let it go for a couple more months," she said. "The principals at the schools as well as the districts are taking on a lot more work."
The options will be forwarded to school trustees who will decide how they're affected by the strike at the local level and whether extra pressure should be put on teachers.
But Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers' Federation, called the employers' options "inflammatory."
"I think that when you consider that kind of a step against your employees you're deliberately trying to raise anxiety. I think it's irresponsible."
Teachers have withdrawn from some extracurricular activities and supervision duties and will not be preparing report cards due to be distributed at the end of the month.
Lambert said teachers are still continuing to teach students in underfunded schools and with little support for special needs children.
Parents concerned about their children's progress because there won't be any report cards should call teachers, who will communicate with parents despite the job action, she said.
The teachers' five-year contract expired last June, and both sides say they are far apart in efforts to negotiate a new agreement.
The government has said that just as with other public sector employees, teachers will not get any wage increase.
The teachers' strike is happening at the same time as their union and the government are dealing with a court ruling in April on teachers' bargaining rights.
On Oct. 11, the union will ask a B.C. Supreme Court judge to clarify the ruling related to the Liberal government's 2002 legislation that barred teachers from bargaining class-size limits and composition during contract talks.
The government has refused to repeal the legislation.
Joy said the options were forwarded to school trustees in a discussion paper this week and would have to be approved by the Labour Relations Board.
She says principals are taking on a lot more work since teachers began withdrawing from supervision duties and extracurricular activities and parents there won't be any report cards later this month.
Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers' Federation, says the options that will be presented to school trustees are irresponsible and inflammatory because teachers are still teaching during the first phase of their job action.
She says parents concerned about a lack of report cards should phone teachers, who will still speak to them during the strike.