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Teachers ready for job action

Teachers will be instructing but not doing administrative work

As students get ready to go back to school, teachers are bracing for a partial strike.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation announced Wednesday that the first phase of job action will start on Sept. 6, the first day of school.

Teachers will still teach, but they won't do administrative work, such as writing report cards, supervising playgrounds or meeting with principals.

"In this phase of the job action, teachers are doing what they love most, which is teaching," said Burnaby Teachers' Association president Richard Storch.

The partial strike follows stalled negotiations between the B.C. government and the provincewide teachers' union.

Talks started in March, the contract expired in June, and according to the union, there has been no progress at the bargaining table. Storch said teachers will still keep track of grades, they just won't issue report cards. If parents want to know how their kids are doing in school, they can contact the teachers.

"There's no change in communication with parents and students," Storch said. "(Parents) are welcome to ask the teacher at any time during the year how the student is doing and are encouraged to do so."

Extra-curricular work is not affected by the job action and will remain optional for teachers. However, teachers will not participate in extracurricular fundraising activities, Storch added.

"Public education should be properly funded. Parents shouldn't have to raise funds either," Storch said.

Education Minister George Abbott had concerns about the job action, including teachers not reporting attendance; something the Labour Relations Board decided was necessary for safety reasons.

"There will be other issues around the contact between parents of students and their teachers. There will undoubtedly be issues around reporting report cards," Abbott said.

The government is approaching discussion with all public sector employees with a "net zero mandate," he added.

For instance, if teachers want wage increases, they would have to give up benefits of equal monetary value.

"You can be sure the bargaining will be challenging, and that has certainly been the case so far. Currently, there's nothing in our world that will take us away from a net zero mandate, and I don't believe our employees at the BCTF have acknowledged or attempted that to date," Abbott said. "I'm just trying to be realistic here, rather than pessimistic. Odds are this is going to continue to be a difficult negotiation."

The teachers want a number of things, including higher salaries, improved working conditions and restoration of local bargaining rights.

For more on this story, see Jennifer Moreau's blog, Community Conversations, at www.burnabynow. com - click on the Opinion tab and follow the link under Blogs.