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REPORTING · 24th February 2012
Walter McFarlane
Watch it on Kitimat Daily Videos

Debbra Thame Got up to address the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Terrace District Teachers Union about one of last months motions. She asked them to reconsider their motion to the BCSTA 2012 provincial Council. She asked for the motion not to be submitted or to be withdrawn.

The motion asked the BC government to find a resolution to end the negotiations in the labour dispute through intervention.

“This board has stated in numerous meetings that they would like to improve teacher moral and have a more open and positive relationship with their teacher employees,” said Debbra.

The board chair, Art Erasmus has stated publicly: the board do not want to take sides in this dispute and they will not call for a legislated end to the Dispute. She expressed the motion takes sides and the most likely way for the government to end the dispute is legislation given comments by the government.

She expressed the decision will end up in the government and not in the local board who should be speaking up for their students, staff and the lack of funding. She stated the motion had bulleted points which the teachers found offensive and unsubstantiated. This has damaged the relationship with the teachers.

“In your rational, you state that phase one is having a serious impact on many students and families in our communities. We would argue that it is having minimal effect on students and families. Teachers are continuing with their instruction. In many cases, our members are reporting that without the added time required to complete administrative functions, attend staff meetings and supervision, their lessons and instructions have been improved by utilizing that time to plan, execute and reflect on lessons and instruction more thoughtfully,” said Thame.

She explained the labour action has not limited extra curricular activities. They are still occurring in the schools. Teachers stepping back from these activities can not be attributed to the job action.

Thame told the board teachers are still reporting on their student’s progress directly to the parents, job action or not. The teachers talk regularly with parents and the parents can communicate directly with teachers. Parents have told the union they are having more frequent and more meaningful communication with teachers.

Thame stated teachers are still communicating with professional staff. They are still communicating with specialists, agencies and professional development opportunities to ensure the needs of the students are being met.

She questioned the need for workers in the professional staff to require a degree in education to supervise students on the playground and how this is leading deteriorating student behaviour and to unsafe schools.

“This statement is not true, and does not give credit to the excluded staff for the services they are providing. Supervising students on a playground does not require an educational background. It requires common sense and diligence to adhering to and applying rules and consequences. At no time did my education degree give me formal instruction in how to supervise students on a playground and we are not aware of our KUPEE colleagues being given formal instruction in supervising strategies to be able to fulfill their lunch hour supervision duties either,” said Thame.

She expressed the union is aware of comments made by administrators complimenting the behaviour of students on the playground. She stated if the District has safety concerns, there is a process for addressing these issues. The School District has utilized this process in several schools where teachers are providing supervision during this action as safety is just as big a priority for teachers.

The final statement the School Board made about the unprofessional display at the bargaining table was offensive to both the teachers and the people representing the school board at the bargaining table. The union does not believe either party is inept, they have opposing views on negotiations and are locked in a stalemate. However, these representatives representing the boards are getting their orders from the government, not from the School Board.

She suggested a motion for Trustees to make which came from which came Cowichan. The motion would allow Trustees to share teachers concerns for quality classroom conditions, understand students and staff are counting on them to press for their best interests and are responsible for the conditions in the schools.

The motion asked the board to support for a just collective agreement including improved classroom support, support for students and a fair wage increase. In addition, if the negotiations continue in stalemate, the group bargaining on behalf of the government should stand aside and let the government negotiate directly.

Other boards are supporting the call to mediation, an opposite motion to what the Cost Mountain School District past in January. She pointed out if the motion made in January was meant to reduce the work load by administrative staff, the mandated changes to the education system over the past couple of years have added to the work load which teachers have had do. All of which did not have the support, finances or resources to implement them.

“It appears one sided, that when the stress is on administrators, the board takes a public stand and calls for action, but when the stress is on teachers, the board remains publicly quiet. A labour dispute is not easy on either party involved. It creates tension and uncertainty, but this action is not significantly affecting students and families. Teachers in this province do not take such actions lightly,” said Thame.

The union developed an action plan which would highlight the issues and place pressure on government, employers and representatives and not students and families. She requested once again for them to withdraw the motion and make a motion to support mediation.

Liz Thorn, Communications Director from Kitimat District Teachers Association also got up to speak. She stated teachers have used up a Thesaurus worth of adjectives to describe the motion which was made and passed at last months meeting.

“What we’d like to point out is the damage that you have done to yourselves and to your relations with your employees,” said Thorn. “I’ve been around long enough to know that most teachers feel that our board are elected citizens who are acting in good faith and trying to do the best they can in a difficult situation. We may not agree with what you decide to do but mostly, we don’t pay allot of attention. We do our jobs to the best of our ability and rely on our executive members.”

She said it was the legal right of any group of employees to bargain collectively and what was done by their employer 10 years ago was illegal. They have the right and a court order to address this wrong. Teachers have long memories and pride as professionals who are good at what they do.

“To call us anything else is a kick in the teeth,” said Thorn. “That’s what it was. It was a kick in the teeth. And whatever positive relationship you may have had with us on an individual basis in the past is now gone.”

She said other boards are asking for a speed up for negotiations and reach settlement. They asked to have a contract forced upon the school board. She stated the nonsense motion they passed last month does not speak highly of the boards judgement.

She thanked them for their time.