Teachers’ dispute ‘completely chaotic’

SURREY – The second day of teachers’ rotating strikes has landed in Surrey, Delta and White Rock and it seems as if the effect on students is growing by the day.


While it was unknown what exactly was going to be affected when the teachers’ job action and the government’s partial lock out first came into effect, this week the picture is becoming clearer.


One English teacher at Tamanawis said she had to kick three students out of her class when the lunch bell rang, despite them not having finished writing their tests.


"Most of them were pretty close to being done but if it were a regular day I would have let them keep writing," said Kasha Duff, who tweeted education minister Peter Fassbender about the job action. "Instead I told them I had to leave at 11:30. I warned them all before but they still went over and I wasn’t allowed to stay there."


Elsewhere, Surrey Teachers Association President Jennifer Wadge has heard of field trips and extracurricular activities being cancelled while teachers in other schools are being told to carry on as usual.


"Last Friday I received notice from two sites where the principal came to teachers telling them to cancel field trips," she explained. "Those included a Grade 7 camp that was going to be an overnight camp and the other was over concerns about liability or administrators taking over saying teachers shouldn’t be attending."


At other schools in the district, administrators are taking a different approach.


"Nobody seems to know what’s going on with this lockout," said Wadge. "Some schools’ principals are telling teachers to cancel activities but in others principals are saying ‘Don’t worry about the lock out, just do what you would normally do.’" The confusion comes after the B.C.


Teachers Association President Jim Iker claimed the province’s partial lock out measures would impact students and events, as well as bar teachers from attending grad ceremonies. Additionally, teachers are being asked not to interact with students during recess and lunch, not to arrive or leave more than 45 minutes before or after school and a 10 per cent reduction in pay. The pay reduction is being disputed before the Labour Relations Board.


In contrast, the BCSPEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron has said teachers are free to do whatever they want in their free time, including attending grad ceremonies and


continuing with extracurriculars.


In Surrey, district superintendent Jordan Tinney said graduation ceremonies would go ahead as planned but Wadge isn’t sure if teachers will be able to attend.


"Grad ceremonies can go ahead but teachers won’t be participating," said Wadge. "Despite the ministers’ assurances that we’ll be covered by WCB and liability, our advice to members is to still be very cautious and so we’re telling people not to be on district premises during lockout hours.


"So if the grad ceremony is happening in an evening at a school they shouldn’t attend and for a lot of teachers that’s really hard. They’ve known these kids for five or six years but they won’t be there to see them graduate because of this."


And now, with the second week of rotating strikes underway, Wadge said how the school year’s end will turn out is still anyone’s guess at this point.


"Peter Cameron says one thing, Peter Fassbender says another, the district says this and we hear something else," she said. "It’s completely chaotic."


In response to the ongoing labour dispute, some secondary students across B.C. may also take part in a self-organized walkout to protest being caught in the middle of the dispute.


According to the BC Student Walkout for Students Facebook page, "This has been going on far too long (thirteen years too long) and the students are the ones losing out, all because adults cannot get along…It is time that student education really did become the first priority. We are tired of getting the short end of the stick."