As B.C. teachers’ employer applies to force an end to an extracurricular walkout, the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association and district administration are disputing what’s actually being demanded.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association applied to the Labour Relations Board to hold a hearing today to end the voluntary work walkout.
Kamloops-Thompson School District Supt. Terry Sullivan said he interprets that as stopping the B.C. Teachers’ Federation from blocking teachers from volunteering.
“The BCTF directing its members not to participate in voluntary activities is not only unacceptable, it’s a continuation of the job action and it’s an infringement on individual members’ rights to participate as they see fit,” said Sullivan. “You can’t tell them to volunteer or not to volunteer.”
During a B.C. School Trustees Association AGM on April 27, word spread that teachers were being threatened with pulling their union card should they continue to volunteer, said school board chair Denise Harper.
But KTTA president Jason Karpuk said there are no punitive measures in place, and such “misinformation” is merely a ploy to divide the union membership.
“I’ve seen nothing come out of the BCTF with request to that and nothing from this local with respect to that,” he said. “There’s nothing on the books or on record in terms of punitive.”
He added the BCTF is not mandating the volunteering walkout, rather it’s a membership vote so union members deal with it on an individual basis.
“If someone has an issue with what someone is doing, then they should speak to that person on their own and express their concerns or understand where that person is coming from,” said Karpuk.
Nonetheless the membership directive has been effective, said Sullivan.
“Teachers are anxious about (that directive),” he said.
And it’s having an impact as schools may carry fewer elective courses next year since students are discouraged from signing up, said Sullivan.
“If the enrolment is small we wouldn’t be able to offer them,” he said.
Harper uses as an example the school she oversees as trustee. She said students are walking away from the Chase Secondary band program, made popular thanks to the hard work of its teacher, because a long anticipated end-of-year trip was cancelled.
“People donated to that program. People fundraised for that program. And it’s not going to happen. So kids will say, ‘Oh for heaven’s sake’ and just walk away,” she said.
GRADS WILL GO ON
Graduation ceremonies are also creating challenges to school administration, said Sullivan.
“Our secondary principals have put out a request for (teacher) volunteers for graduation. Two of them told me (Wednesday) that all they got back was blank sheets,” he said.
But he said district administration is adamant celebrations will be the same once-in-a-lifetime events for 2012 graduating students as they are every year.
“I want students to remember their graduation day in a positive way. And we’re going to do everything we possibly can to ensure that happens.”
Karpuk said teachers will participate, albeit in a more limited way.
“The graduations are going. We’re doing that within the instructional hours,” he said.