Saturday, October 1, 2011

BC School Trustees consider a teacher lockout

School Trustee Mel Joy sent out a letter on September 19 inviting School Trustees to a BCPSEA (BC Public School Employer's Association) meeting this upcoming Monday, October 3rd.

Details of the meeting have now been leaked to the media ( and the BCTF ( Trustees will be considering actions in the teachers' dispute up to and including a lockout or garnishing teachers' wages.

The notion of a lock out is particularly curious. BCPSEA now regularly describes their organization as having a "co-governance" model. That is, they are co-governed by School Trustees, who are elected in their local communities, and also the Provincial Government. Their Board consists of both elected Trustee representatives as well as appointed government representatives. They are under the direction of PSEC - the Public Sector Employer's Council, who are clearly an arm of government and who dictate the terms of bargaining (including the "net zero" mandate). And so I wonder where this idea came from? Is it from Trustees? Or is it from government? Or maybe from the Superintendents, Principals and Vice-Principals, the "silent" partners in the co-governance model?

When this government first came to power, they enacted special legislation that mandated that teachers be an essential service. In 2002 this government unilaterally legislated teachers back to work and imposed a three year contract that was not negotiated. In 2005 they again legislated teachers back to work but teachers stayed out regardless. Having sent teachers back to work so many times, one wonders why a lockout would be considered.

This government has been intent on stopping any job action of teachers and instead using a legislative hammer to force an end to disputes. The result has been low morale and frustration. In fact, a worklife study of teachers conducted by the BCTF found that the provincial government itself was one of the main stressors for teachers in BC (

One of the purported reasons for a lockout is because teachers are doing less work in the phase one job action. It is true that there are a few meetings and evening events we are not attending. We are not attending the monthly staff meeting. We are not attending the once yearly "meet the teacher". We are not attending "formal" parent teacher interviews. But teachers are continuing to meet with each other. We are continuing to have department meetings without administration. We are continuing to contact parents and communicate regularly. We are continuing extra curricular activities. We are teaching full time. Many teachers are using the few freed up hours to do additional lesson preparation. Many are using the time for additional one on one support to students with particular learning needs. Many are using it to phone parents and discuss concerns and learning strategies. Many are saying that teaching and learning hasn't been better in years.

Moreover, the single biggest impact on schools and learning in the last decade has been the stripping of class size and class composition provisions. For ten years, teachers have had a significantly increased workload due to larger and more complex classes. Even in the face of a court ruling, the government has refused to reinstated class sizes and services to students.

When Trustees meet on Monday, I hope they consider another option. I hope they direct BCPSEA to go to government for a new mandate. I hope they show respect and appreciation for the work teachers are continuing to do every day in their classrooms. I hope they show support for a fair and reasonable salary increase to ensure that BC can attract and retain great teachers. I hope they say they want class sizes reinstated in collective agreements. I hope they tell BCPSEA to get back to the bargaining table with a mandate to bargain.

If you would like to show support, please contact your local School Trustees and let them know we need a solution, not to take teachers out of the classroom. If you are a Trustee, please tell BCPSEA to go back to government and get a real mandate to bargain, so that we can negotiate a new collective agreement.


  1. I believe that BCPSEA is attempting to provoke a crisis so they can proceed with their (and the government's) agenda. So far, the job action has made teachers realize how much of their time is spent doing all sorts of things other than teaching .... and no one is very upset about it.

  2. I agree with Lucinda that this is a provocation, but I also think that Gorgeous George is calling the BCTF's bluff and is threatening districts at the same time.

    I agree with Tara that trustees like Patti Bacchus in Vancouver must tell BCPSEA that threats don't help bargaining progress, and that BCPSEA needs to revise its offer of sub-zero attacks on teachers.

    Unfortunately, districts have been all but ignored, and only one has actually tendered a deficit budget to cover the real costs of public education (but filed a balanced budget in time).

    The only group that can get the government's attention is the BCTF. And the only group who can force the government to obey the law is the BCTF with the solidarity of BCers. BCPSEA is trying to exploit anti-teacher hysteria in the media and turn our communities against us, and we cannot allow that to happen.