French Immersion teacher Julie Fisher goes through books as she cleans shelves to get ready for the new school year at Reynolds secondary school.

French Immersion teacher Julie Fisher goes through books as she cleans shelves to get ready for the new school year at Reynolds secondary school.

Labour dispute on back burner for school year

The relationship between B.C. teachers and government remains on the mend, but a new teachers’ contract has put discord on temporary hiatus

The relationship between B.C. teachers and government remains on the mend, but a new teachers’ contract has put discord on temporary hiatus as schools in Greater Victoria open this week – although not everyone was celebrating.

“It’s mixed emotions for sure,” said Sean Hayes, president of the Saanich School District Teachers’ Association. “It’s relief that we’re entering the school year in a much more settled state with the prospects of a quiet and relatively peaceful year.

“That’s a relief, but we’re also not happy because the major issues for teachers remain unchanged: oversized classes, poor support for special needs students and dwindling resources.”

After a year of stalled contract negotiations and six months of work-to-rule job action culminating in a walkout last March, B.C.’s 41,000 public school teachers came to a collective agreement on June 26.

The short-term contract, which is valid until June 2013, offers some degree of relief for Hayes. But others, such as Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Tara Ehrcke, stands vehemently against the plan.

Though unlikely, the possibility exists of job disruptions through the fall, Ehrcke said.

“There will be a lot of teachers returning to school this fall with a real sense of disappointment and we’re also going to see some larger classes than we’ve seen in a number of years,” Ehrcke said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see individual teachers taking a step back from some extracurricular activities, simply because they have larger classes and more responsibilities.”

Although teachers are happy to be heading back to work fully and completely, Hayes said, they are upset about how the last round of bargaining went.

“There may be a little holdover,” he added.

During an Aug. 28 teleconference, Education Minister George Abbott said he was hoping for a much more positive, harmonious year in terms of labour relations.

“We do have the second year of the two-year agreement still to go,” Abbott said. “That will likely see, perhaps in March or April, a recommencement of bargaining discussions, but I’m hoping that this year gives us an opportunity to try to build at least a little better relationship between government and the teachers’ federation and between government educational partners, including the teachers’ federation.”

Abbott will not be involved in much of those discussions, however, since after 16 years as an MLA, he announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in the spring.

“We’ve been in the same drama for 40 years,” Thomas Fleming, University of Victoria professor emeritus in education, said in an interview earlier this year.

“Teachers complaining about government; government saying teachers are withholding services. The dialogue doesn’t change; the actors don’t change. Essentially this dialogue is no dialogue. It’s not going any place. It’s a system built for another age.”

Despite the history of unrest at the provincial level, teachers and administrators are expecting a relatively calm school year across the region.

After 11 years as superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District, John Gaiptman said 2011-12 was by far the most difficult year in the role, and like others on both sides of the dispute, he’s looking forward to a smoother road ahead.

“Last year was a tough year on everybody,” Gaiptman said. “This year we are really focused on the important things and the important thing is creating classes that are flexible and relevant and engaging for our students … that will be the reason for any actions we take.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

(Courtesy Saanich Police Dept.)
Police hope boot search will help find missing Saanich man

Sean Hart is known to walk for miles, with or without his boots

A Colwood couple has set up over 140 Christmas inflatable decorations around their property at 555 Girdou Rd. The home is lit with Christmas music playing from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Colwood house decorated to the nines with Christmas inflatables

Display on Girou Road open to spectators from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday

Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. (Don Descoteau/News Staff) 
Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. But thanks to a new program from the Downtown Victoria Business Association, many downtown businesses will soon be able to provide free delivery for customers across the region. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Downtown Victoria businesses offered free delivery for regional customers

DVBA launches ‘Downtown Delivers’ program Dec. 7

Victoria police seized drugs, knives, two firearms and ammunition off a man early Nov. 4. (Victoria Police Department)
VicPD makes early morning drug and weapons seizure

Officers seize drugs, knives, two firearms and ammunition

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read