Parents rally for end of labour dispute between province and teachers

Parents are taking action to get their children back to school, some of them anonymously.

Parents are taking action to get their children back to school, some of them anonymously.

Taped to the entrance of both Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo’s office and the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association office in Salmon Arm on Tuesday morning was a sheet of paper entitled: “BC students will return to school September 22, 2014.”

Unsigned, it stated: “We do not want $40 a day for daycare/tutoring, and we do not want to wait for the next court ruling (the hearing does not ever start for more than a month).

“We want our kids back in school, so we are sending them back!

“There has been plenty of time for a settlement to be reached. One could have been reached before the strike started, and it has been almost 90 days without any real movement, and no sign that there might be any.

“It has been reported that schools could reopen within 24 hours of a settlement.

“We are giving two weeks’ notice. The students will return September 22, 2014. Please be ready for them.”

It’s not known who is responsible as it was signed only: “Parents of public school students.”

On Monday, a group of about 15 parents and children carrying placards made their way around Salmon Arm’s downtown.

“My kids have a right to public education,” “J’aime l’école,” “Education for all,” were some of the slogans.

Beginning at the Ross Street Plaza, the group took it to the streets, with stops that included Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo’s office, the office of the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association and the school board office.

“This is bringing parents and the community together, without taking sides in the dispute,” said Jackie Graham, a parent and president of the parent advisory council for South Broadview Elementary. “We all have a common goal – we want to see our kids back in school.”

Graham said it’s a way for parents to express their wishes.

“This may not move mountains, but this is more just saying what parents want. I tell my kids, this is an educational field trip. We’re learning to stand up for what we believe in.”

Graham’s son Tanner is going into Grade 6.

“I’m not really happy, I want to go back,” he said. “I don’t want to wait too long, I”m to getting any smarter staying at home doing nothing.”

Parent Kendra Kieft stressed the importance of education and said it should be available to all young people.

“My kids are going to be behind if they don’t get back pretty quick.”

Parent Mary Preston expressed her displeasure with the provincial government.

“I think this government should be honest about its union-busting agenda – some people support that. I’m extremely distressed to have moved from the USA only to discover this cynical, double-speak politics in B.C.”

Gretta Bakewell would like to see more supports for students.

“I don’t think that the government understands the issue of composition and class size. The number of kids with extra needs is growing every year. Services – learning resource teachers, speech therapy, occupational therapy – are getting cut back every year and teachers are being stretched every year. It’s not fair to any students.”

The school district’s website, at www.sd83.ca, was updated Monday to say: “Representatives from the board and central staff again met with MLA Greg Kyllo on Monday,  Sept. 8, discussing the letter which it sent to the government, BCPSEA and BCTF, highlighting the fact that the board would like to see a resolution to the provincial labour dispute and have students back in class.”

Teachers to vote

Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the B.C. Teachers Federation’s call Friday for binding arbitration to end the teachers strike. However, the BCTF announced Monday it would put the question regarding binding arbitration to its membership on Wednesday.

Once the union has the membership vote, all that will be left to end the strike will be for the government to say yes, said BCTF President Jim Iker.

Fassbender said the BCTF never gave the province a detailed written proposal and the union’s insistence on several preconditions would have tilted arbitration in its favour.

“It became very clear that it was another empty effort to give parents and teachers a false hope that there is a simple way to resolve the dispute,” Fassbender said Saturday.

Iker said the union would be willing to leave class size and composition to be settled by the courts, while an arbitrator would decide the rest. His only precondition is that the province drop its proposed E80 clause, which allows either side to dodge the effect of a future appeal court ruling against them on class size and special needs resources.

Fassbender said binding arbitration hands over control to a third party and risks an outcome that compromises B.C.’s balanced budget and unacceptably damages the province’s finances.

With files from Jeff Nagel/Black Press