Schools open during job action: School District 43

Coquitlam teachers upset about Bill 22 will be off the job Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in legal job action. However, they won
Coquitlam teachers upset about Bill 22 will be off the job Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in legal job action. However, they won't be picketing. Here, teachers from Terry Fox gather in support of their union in Monday's day of action.

School District 43 will be keeping schools open during the three-day job action by teachers beginning Monday but won't be able to provide adequate supervision, according to spokesperson Cheryl Quinton.

Administrators will be on site, along with other excluded staff, but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home, Quinton said.

However, she said Strong Start, and before and after school programs will still be operating.

Students will be getting a letter from the School District about the job action today.

The news has parents scrambling for alternatives for their children, according to Heidi Hass Gable, chair of the District Parents Advisory Council.

At a meeting Wednesday, Hass Gable said, parents expressed concern over the walkout but said they were also worried about Bill 22 changes to classroom composition that will set aside rules limits to numbers of children with individual education plans allowed in the classroom. Gable said parents are afraid there won't be funding and supports to help in classrooms where there are more children with special needs.

"We, as parents, are very concerned about those things and want to speak out about them," Hass Gable said. However, she said parents didn't want to wade into the politics of Bill 22 or wages issues.

The Coquitlam Teachers Association, meanwhile, says the three-day walkout is necessary to show the government that teachers are unhappy with Bill 22, which will impose a cooling off period, remove class composition rules, and limit mediation to non-wage issues.

"It's very draconian. It gives nothing but it takes a lot away. It's not true mediation," said Coquitlam Teachers Association president Teresa Grandinetti.

She said the walk-out notice issued by the BCTF Thursday follows one of the largest turnouts ever for a vote on job action.

"Over 1,800 members turned out, that was huge," Grandinetti said.

In a statement on the CTA website, BCTF president Susan Lambert is quoted as saying teachers take the step of job action "very reluctantly."

She suggested parents and other concerned British Columbians to contact their MLAs, Education Minister George Abbott, and Premier Christy Clark to urge them not to impose Bill 22 but to negotiate a fair agreement with teachers.

Overall, across B.C. 87% of teachers voted "yes" to escalating job action from the limited "teach only" campaign that began last September.

In all 32,209 teachers voted, of whom 27,946 said "yes." to job action, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, in a statement to the media Thursday, Abbott said all public schools will remain open during the job action. As well, he noted, schools will not be picketed during the strike legalized by the Labur Relations Board, which means that unionized school support staff, such as special education assistants, will be present as well.

However, there will be no instruction time.

The teacher job action won't affect a board of education meeting, slated to take place Tuesday, March 6.

According to Abbott, Bill 22 sets a cooling-off period and suspends the teachers' union strike action while calling on the assistance of a mediator. It also implements the $165-million Learning Improvement Fund and changes class composition rules but makes consultation a core duty for principals and teachers.

However, the BCTF is concerned that the fund amounts to only pennies a day for special needs students and that mediation is too restrictive in the issues it can cover. The teachers are calling for a 15% wage increase over three years while the government is imposing a net-zero mandate.

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