Government locks out teachers. BCTF says this will impact grads, exams, and more

The BC government’s attempt to make good on its threat to roll back teachers’ wages during job action will have significant impacts on students for the rest of this school year, BCTF President Jim Iker said Thursday, May 22.

Yesterday, Wednesday May 21, he received a letter from Michael Marchbank, Premier Christy Clark’s appointed head of the BC Public School Employers’ Association, in which he states that because teachers are starting rotating strikes, the government intends to claw back 10% of their wages.

The pay cut will be in effect even on days when teachers are in their classrooms working with students to meet their needs, Iker said in a statement.

The BCTF is formally challenging the government’s threat to cut teachers’ pay. It will be considered at a Labour Relations Board hearing scheduled for Thursday, May 29, starting at 11 am.  “In view of the circumstances, the LRB advised that it will endeavour to issue an early decision, and we will inform members as soon as we have any further information,” Iker said in a separate letter sent to BCTF members on Thursday.

“Parents will be asking you many questions.  Many will be supportive and some will even blame you.  We have prepared a letter for parents.  Please remember: do not give your students this letter to give to their parents.  You must give the letter directly to parents. French, Chinese and Punjabi language versions will be posted as soon as possible. Here is the link to the parent letter in English.”

In his statement to the news media Iker said the government is “imposing a series of partial and full lockouts.

“Starting Monday, May 26, teachers are prohibited from being at school more than 45 minutes before and after class time, and they are forbidden from working during recess or lunch hour. In addition, all secondary teachers will be locked out on June 25 and 26, and both elementary and secondary teachers are to be locked out on June 27.”

Iker said that as a result, teachers “could be disciplined for helping a struggling student at lunch hour.”

“What’s more, extra-curricular activities including clubs, drama, music, and sports will be cancelled, graduation ceremonies will be impacted, and final exams for some senior secondary students will not be marked.”

None of these impacts would have occurred under the teachers’ job action plan, he said in the statement.

“We were careful to ensure that already scheduled extra-curricular and volunteer activities continued. We wanted to minimize the impact on students,” Iker said. “During rotating strikes, teachers would continue all volunteer activities four out of five days a week.”

The planned lockouts will also impact all Grade 10 English students and Social Studies 11 students who are scheduled to write their provincial exams on June 24. With all secondary schools under lockout beginning June 25, there will be no teachers present to mark thousands of exams.

“Premier Clark just yesterday said children should not be put in the middle, yet she is imposing significant disruptions to the education system,” Iker said.

“We’ve already heard from secondary school teachers that they will be locked out on the day their students graduate. Is putting Grade 12 grad on the chopping block Christy Clark’s definition of families first?”

Iker said that the directive prohibiting teachers from interacting with students during the lunch hour will have possibly the most wide-ranging impacts.

“Christy Clark’s lockout will mean teachers would be insubordinate if they helped a struggling student or a child with special needs during the lunch hour,” Iker said. “For many teachers, this is valuable time when students can have that important one-on-one time to ask questions or share their learning.”

Iker called on the government to come to the bargaining table with resources to reach a fair collective agreement.

“Smaller classes, more support for children with special needs, extra one-on-one time with all kids, and fair wages—these are our key goals in this round of negotiations,” Iker said. “That’s how we will get a deal and that’s how we can end this crisis in education.”