Alberni teachers look to SD 70 for help

Alberni District Teachers Union president Ken Zydyk called on SD 70 to ask government to suspend imposing a contract and appoint a mediator.

Port Alberni teacher Ian Thomas was among more than 30 colleagues who rallied on Tenth Avenue and Redford Street on Monday afternoon. The ADTU has asked for School District 70's help in repealing legislation that would impose a contract on B.C. teachers.

The Alberni District Teacher’s Union wants School District 70’s help in repealing proposed legislation that would impose a contract on B.C. teachers.

ADTU president Ken Zydyk made the appeal to School District 70 trustees at their meeting on Tuesday night.

Education Minister George Abbott introduced the bill in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday afternoon. The Education Improvement Act calls for a cooling-off period, appointment of a mediator and a ban on any strikes, with significant financial penalties to both individuals and the BCTF if there are work stoppages during that six-month period.

According to the BC Teachers Federation website, those penalties range from $475 per day for individual teachers,  $2,500 per day for union officers, and a minimum of $1.3 million per day for the BCTF.

The bill was introduced just a short time after the Labour Relations Board ruled the union could withdraw services for a three-day period in one week, if it gives students, parents and school districts 48 hours notice. The union could also withdraw services for one day each week after that initial strike.

Abbott’s legislation could take up to one week to pass.

“I don’t think we should be fooled by that,” Zydyk said to trustees of the act’s title. “This goes beyond the net zero mandate.”

The proposed act sets the stage for stripping teachers of their professional rights and development, as well as their staff employment rights, Zydyk said.

The bill also impacts the protection of class size limits as well as support for special needs, he said. And it sets the stage for increased funding cuts. “We won’t be able to fund the challenges that impact learning conditions.”

SD 70 supported the ADTU two weeks ago by calling on government to appoint an independent fact finder, and the union needs its help again, Zydyk said.

The ADTU requested that SD 70 “ask government to suspend Bill C 22 and allow a mediator to bring the two parties together,” to hammer out a collective agreement.

According to the ADTU’s website, teachers are scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon at the Steelworkers Hall on Montrose Street.

Other teachers unions on the Island have stated they are taking strike votes tomorrow, however, Zydyk was not available to clarify whether the ADTU will be taking a strike vote. The ADTU will make an announcement to media on Wednesday, he said.

After the meeting, meeting chair Glenn Wong said trustees hadn’t had a chance to discuss the proposed legislation or LRB ruling. “But we’ve always been receptive to ending this dispute,” he said.

Wong’s personal view, he said, was that he was disappointed with the LRB ruling. In particular, he was concerned with the lurch a teachers strike will have on Alberni Valley families, who will be forced to make other childcare arrangements.

The strike will be a particular imposition on high school students. “They operate on a semester system where every day counts,” Wong said. “If this goes on long then how will students make up for those days?”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

With files from Tom Fletcher

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