Update: AGM, local bargaining, and other important stuff

Hi Folks,

2013-14 Executive Committee

There were about 30 people who attended our Annual general Meeting on Wednesday evening.  We elected the following people as our executive for the 2013-14 school year:

President                                      Fred Robertson
Vice President                             Karen Zoffmann
Secretary Treasurer                   Robert Fyles
Local Representative                Shawn Gough
Member At Large                       Sandra Gunson

Pro-D Chair                                 Kevin Ogren
Bargaining Chair                       Richard Starr
Social Justice Chair                   Greg Murray
Health and Safety Rep.             Jackie Poynter
Aboriginal Education Rep.      Teresa Wadhams
Teacher on Call Rep.                 Lani Siminoff

The newly elected Executive bears a remarkable resemblance to this year’s executive.
Thank you to everyone who let his or her name stand for a position on the Executive.

New Fee Structure

At last year’s AGM there was a motion to investigate changing our fee structure from a flat rate of $600 per year to a rate based upon a percent of salary.  The argument was that a percentage of salary based fee structure was a more even and fair structure.

Robert conducted that research over the year and presented it to our Rep. Assembly.   It became clear that if we were going to change the way we assess fees this would be a good year to do it.  We are currently in a situation where we bring in a bit more in fees than we spend. The discussion at the RA reflected the principle that if we change there should be no increase to anyone’s VINTA fee.   A .68% fee would result in folks at the top of the salary grid paying roughly the same amount (a wee bit less actually) and a descending amount as you go down the scale.  We would take in less money in fees by the end of the year.

The RA felt we could afford it and recommended a motion to the AGM that the VINTA fee is set at .68% of salary.  This motion was debated at the AGM and passed.

So, our VINTA fee, for the 2013-14 school year, will be .68% percent of salary.  The calculations of what the fee will be for each grid step is on the VINTA website under the Publication’s menu.  This is the link:



The district has begun the staffing process for next year.  They will be cutting over 6.5 FTE positions from existing teaching staff.  As a result there are 13 people who are laid off, bumped or returned to the recall list.  Due to retirements and leaves there are a number of positions on the available positions list.  The process will continue in order of seniority until everyone on the lay-off / recall list has had his or her turn.

The district maintains these cuts are necessitated due to financial pressures and declining enrolment.  At our budget presentation to the Board we suggested SD #85 has a very high level of administration for such a small district, and while there are very real funding issues there are also issues around their spending priorities.  Needless to say, the school district did not agree with our assessment.

Whatever the reasons for the cuts, it is clear that that the result will be fewer supports and services for our students.

Local Bargaining

We had our first round of local bargaining with the district on Monday April 22nd.  Our team is made up of Robert Fyles, Shawn Gough, Robena Maclaren, Jackie  Poynter, Richard Starr, Teresa Wadhams, and moi.  The Board team is Katherine McIntosh, John Martin, and Leightan Wishart.

After introductions each side presented their opening statements and bargaining objectives.  Our objectives include issues around post and fill, TTOC rights, professional autonomy, consultation, parental complaints, duties and rate of a TIC, health and Safety and a few other smaller items.  The District’s mentioned they had submitted their bargaining plan to BCPSEA for approval.  They had an oral presentation of their objectives.    They were fairly modest.  They included some similar objectives in areas VINTA had identified and the need to align the CA with Employment Standards legislation.  They also wanted to address areas where there had been grievances.

We were able to sign off the protocols for these negotiations very quickly.  We were also able to agree on some very strait-forward issues.   We agreed that TTOC’s should be issued a key for the school where they were working when they arrive at the building and that all TTOC’s should receive an orientation for any school where they will be working.  These are pretty clear Health and Safety requirements and it was noted they fall under the heading of common sense.  We also agreed to sign of the areas that brought the CA (mostly Mat. Leave language) in line with legislation.  We also agreed to adjust a housekeeping error with an incorrect reference.  It was also made clear the district was not prepared to discuss professional autonomy as this was at the provincial table.

One of the largest challenges we faced was finding the days to negotiate.  Our next scheduled days are not until May 22nd and May 29th.

There is no clear dispute resolution mechanism with these local negotiations.  Essentially, if either side says a definite ‘No’, there is not really any recourse.  As a result we have agreed to try more of an ‘Interest-Based’ approach to these negotiations.  The idea is to establish the central principle around each of the objectives and through discussion, try to arrive at language that would satisfy each side’s ‘interest’.

We started this process with the Post and Fill articles of our Collective Agreement.  We both agree that the current language was written at a time when the district was about three times the size and growing.  We have seen enormous declines since we were able to negotiate the language.  There is also mutual acknowledgement of the fact that there is almost no ability for more senior members of the local to move to new positions or positions that may become vacant.  It was acknowledged there needs to be a balance between the rights of more senior members to use their seniority to apply for a vacant position and the employment rights of more junior employees going through a lay-off recall process.  The tricky bit is what this would look like in our Collective Agreement.  We will continue the Post and Fill discussion on May 22nd.  Any understanding we might reach with the district would come to a vote of the membership.

Provincial Bargaining

There is provincial bargaining taking place as well.  Both sides have met several times and exchanged objectives and proposals.  The atmosphere at the table would appear to have improved since last round, however that has not changed BCPSEA’s agenda.  The reality is that things are essentially on hold until after the election.  A change of government should have an impact on what happens at the provincial table.    This is the link to the reports from the provincial table. You will need your member portal id # and password.


Living With Balance

There are currently 9 people who have registered for the program.  The program needs an enrolment of 10 to proceed. From all accounts the program is very well received wherever it has been offered.  If you are contemplating registering please go to the following link to register online.



I don’t think this really qualifies as saving the best ‘til the last.  (Not best anyway)

Senior management in the district recently mentioned they were thinking of re-introducing a regular process of rotating evaluations.  To be clear, the district has been consistent with completing an evaluation during a person’s first year in the district, or at the specific request of an individual.

The notion of re-introducing rotating evaluations every few years is problematic on a whole bunch of different levels.  I don’t know about you, but I have not had a formal evaluation in a few decades and I don’t believe my skills and abilities as a teacher have suffered as a result.  As recently as last year BCPSEA agreed to the idea Professional Growth Plans. It was not written into the provincial agreement because it was dependant on another issue, however the principle was established.

The reality is that these so-called evaluations serve no purpose other than to cause undue stress.  They certainly don’t make us better teachers.

The other labour-law reality is that the district cannot simply re-introduce evaluations because they believe it is a lovely idea.   The labour principle in this instance is called “estoppel.”  If the district has established a clear practice, (i.e. they have not been doing rotating evaluations for many, many years), they cannot simply turn around and say we will do the exact opposite.  They have “estopped” themselves.  This is true even though we do have evaluation language in our Collective Agreement.

If you hear of any suggestions that regular rotating evaluations are returning to a school near you please call the VINTA office.

Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association