Happy New Year!! I do hope everyone was able to pass a peaceful summer.
This will also be the first time in quite some time when we have not been involved in or contemplating job action.
Last year might best be described as the year of the vote. Between the Employment Equity Agreement, local bargaining, provincial bargaining and job action and escalations of job action, we spent much of our time casting a ballot. The expression ‘painfully democratic’ comes to mind.
Last year was clearly not easy, however at the end of the year and after much upheaval, we did have an agreement. It was not a great agreement but it did result in a few improvements – particularly to benefits. (more on this in a bit). Had we not settled we would have seen legislation early in the summer. It was not the best of situations.
Most importantly, there were no concessions and there was no legislation gutting our collective agreements. At the end of the day the government finally believed that if they were to strip clauses from our collective agreement, there would be a significant response from teachers. While this may not appear to be a great victory we should not forget the context in which we forced the government to back away from its ‘contract stripping agenda’. Many, many jurisdictions in Canada and the States have been ripping up public sector contracts and specifically they have been ripping up teacher contracts. One needs only look at recent events in Wisconsin, Illinois and now Ontario to see the evidence.
Through our actions last year we were able to stop this from happening to teachers in B.C. The same cannot be said in most other jurisdictions. So, while we may not have been able accomplish a great victory, we should not under estimate what we actually were able to do! We prevented a very right wing government from carrying out their agenda. In many ways, that is a victory!
We did achieve some improvements in the area of benefits. The benefits package that was agreed to does seem better than our (SD #85) existing package, most notably in the provision of a pharmacy card. There are improvements in other areas as well. However, we also stand to lose a bit with the eye care provisions. The Federation has asked each local to vote on whether or not they will accept the new benefit package or continue with the old package. I am putting together a comparison chart to bring around to present to school staffs in the next week or two. The executive will decide when and how the vote will take place. This should be the last vote for a while.
As we saw all last year, this government worked feverishly to erode hard won collective agreement provisions and protections. It is important for us to act on this knowledge. It is always asking much of an individual to volunteer their time over and above their teaching responsibilities to act as a Staff Rep., Pro-D Rep or Health and Safety Rep. However, there are very real risks if we do nothing.
We are in the process of updating all of our e-mail lists. We are waiting for the district to finalize school staffs. So that is the long way of saying this e-mail may not have you listed on the correct staff. We should have everything updated by the end of the week. Please forward it to anyone who may not have received it.
We have a number of court challenges going forward – most notably our challenge to Bill 22. This will undoubtedly be a long process.
Also outstanding is the disposition of Judge Griffin’s decision with respect to our original challenge to Bills 27 and 28. If you recall, Judge Griffin found in our favour and gave the government one year to address her court ruling. Bill 22 was a part of the government’s attempt address the court ruling. From our perspective it fell well short of what was required. And, we are challenging this in the courts as well. There should be more on this later this fall.
Learning Improvement Fund (LIF)
This fund came about last year in part to address the court’s decision that found they had violated our charter rights. In SD #85 it resulted in two FTE over and above the existing staffing levels. Most of these LIF positions are now in place and all of it should be finalized by the end of the week.
Mark Walther, our Admin. Assistant, has worked hard over the summer to update the VINTA website. It is a work in progress so please feel free to pass along any suggestions you may have. The Pro-D form will be available by the end of the week. The address is: http://www.vinta-bctf.ca/
This is a topic near and dear to many of our hearts. We began to meet district folks in June to discuss assessment in our district. There are mixed reviews of some of the discussions, however it is better to be having the discussion than not. We will be meeting again as September wears on. Please let us know if you would like take part in these discussions.
The BCGEU will be out on a one-day strike tomorrow. They are facing the same intransigent wall we saw last year. It is not entirely clear which sites will have picket lines tomorrow. They will not be picketing schools.
Any support you are able to supply tomorrow would be greatly appreciated.
I will try and set up a schedule for school/staff visits to review the benefit package as soon as possible.
And, as you elect Pro-D and Staff reps could let us know in the office.
See you soon,
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association