Teachers from all over the province today took part in a province-wide day of action, with union meetings slated for every school at lunch hour and demonstrations in every community after school.
The BC Teachers’ Federation promised “there will be no disruption of class time on the day of action. Rather, teachers will be using their off hours to discuss the current situation together, provide advice to their union, and demonstrate their opposition to a legislated contract”
In Barriere, six teachers, and four student teachers from Barriere Elementary School participated after classes concluded for the afternoon in the ‘day of action’ by waving bright yellow signs with notations such as; “Bargaining for a fair deal”, “Kids are worth it”, “Special needs neglected”, and “negotiate don’t legislate”. The group stood along Barriere Town Road, in front of the AG Foods Mall where they could wave their signage at passing motorists and speak with those who were on foot.
Kamloops-Thompson Teacher’s Association (KTTA) local rep, and teacher at BES, Val Williams, said the ‘day of protest’ did not affect the regular school day for the students. She noted that under the current phase one of the job action being taken, “We are still teaching regular days at school. Things not done in phase one of the job action include not attending staff meetings, and we do not write formal report cards. However, we are still meeting with parents, and this year I have had more meetings with parents than I have had in my 20 years of teaching.”
Asked if she thought this was because there are no report cards being issued during the job action Williams replied, “I like to make sure my parents know where their kids are academically. We all try to support their children.”
Williams noted the teachers at Barriere Elementary have concerns about the number of Ministry category children [special needs] they are experiencing in the classrooms.
“The designated number for these children in a classroom is three,” said Williams, “But last year some of our teachers had six or seven in their classrooms.”
She noted that Bill 27 and 28 on the bargaining table regarding class size and composition would address this problem “but the government say the bill is discriminatory and they want to drop it”.
“A teacher can’t possibly deal with this kind of a teaching situation,” said Williams, “Teachers are having to adapt. Many of these kids are falling through the cracks. At one time these kids [special needs] were tested; now we struggle to have one or two a year tested.”
Williams also said that some of the Ministry category children have funding that provides a one-on-one assistant to work with that individual. However, in most cases there is no extra funding so the class teacher “must adapt”, noting that sometimes these kids can disrupt the rest of the class.
Several of the teachers holding protest signs also commented that kids are not just coming with learning and social problems, but also no breakfast, cleanliness problems, and unfortunately low income challenges.
“Teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pocket on their classes,” said Williams, “There are no resources given for that.”
She also hopes the upcoming KTTA vote, “…will be a solid ‘yes’ vote that says we want a negotiated settlement, not a ministry imposed settlement. They can’t rule us back to work – we’ve always been at work.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 28 and 29, teachers across BC will vote on whether to escalate the limited “teach only” job action to a full-scale walkout. Results of the vote will be made public on Thursday, March 1.