School trustees ‘rushed’ by hints of teacher lockout

Docked pay for teachers considered by bargaining body to force talks

The effect of docking teachers’ pay or locking classrooms should be better examined before any action is taken, said the chair of the Greater Victoria school district.

The B.C. Public School Employers Association, a bargaining unit for school districts and other bodies, said it might consider taking action to force a settlement with negotiations with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation at a halt.

Tom Ferris, chair of the Greater Victoria board of education, said while no action has been finalized, his board feels rushed.

“We felt, as a board, that not enough time had been spent in discussion of what would be the possible outcomes,” he said.

“For example, how would this affect students? How would this affect families? What are the legal ramifications?”

Bargaining between the school district and the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association is at a standstill as well, with the last meeting taking place in August.

BCTF members have been refusing non-essential duties since school started in September. The federation is demanding wage parity with other provinces and a range of benefit improvements, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce class sizes and increase special-needs support staff.

Education Minister George Abbott said the additional money for special needs support will be in the “tens of millions” over the next three years.

Decreasing class sizes by one student across the province would cost $150 million, and research suggests that smaller classes are far down the list of things that improve education outcomes, he said.

NDP leader Adrian Dix said improvements to special needs support are only coming because of a B.C. Supreme Court decision earlier this year giving the government a year to consult on class size and composition limits taken out of teacher bargaining in 2002.

“The government that lost in court on its action on class size and composition is now saying they may make some changes,” Dix said.

“But in the year that we’re in, 12,000 classrooms are outside the class size and composition limits, and they passed a law to establish those.”

The speech also commits the government to make sure teachers who “abuse their position of trust are removed and not permitted to return.”

Abbott said amendments are coming to legislation governing the B.C. College of Teachers.

Victoria lawyer Don Avison reviewed the college last year and found that BCTF influence allowed teachers to return to classrooms after being convicted of serious crimes including cocaine trafficking and sexual assault of students.