Though students are not in the classroom as the labour dispute continues, the School District No. 6 Board met this past Tuesday at Nicholson Elementary.
The ongoing strike/lockout was much under discussion at the meeting, says Board Chair Jim Jenkinson, including the teachers’ vote this week to support sending the dispute to binding arbitration.
The Board is not in favour of that move.
“Our Board and the BC School Trustees Assoc. (as well as the BC Teachers Federation) support free, fair collective bargaining,” Jenkinson said. “The recent BCTF offer to BC Public School Employers Association to seek third-party binding arbitration is not collective bargaining. Our Board believes that if the labour dispute is resolved through binding arbitration this could have the same negative effect as the government legislating teachers back to work. Achieving a negotiated settlement now will allow all stakeholders to re-focus together on the long-term issues in public education.”
The Board passed a motion at the meeting to draft a letter to end the labour dispute immediately, using all dispute resolution mechanisms; including mediation and around the clock bargaining with a total medial blackout. The letter will be addressed to the BCTF, BCPSEA and the Ministry of Education.
“Trustees are as frustrated as the public that the BCTF and BCPSEA have failed to reach an agreement after many months of negotiations,” Jenkinson said. “The parties responsible for bargaining need to do whatever it takes to get an agreement.
“We all agreed that our students should be back in classrooms now.”
In School District 5, board chair Frank Lento said he was not surprised by the results of the vote by teachers.
On Tuesday, the Board of Education of SD5 went a slightly different route than SD6 and approved sending a letter to Fassbender (Minister of Education) and the BCTF urging an arbitration panel.
“Each side would chose a representative and then each representative would chose a chairman,” explained Lento on Thursday. “Then it would be a panel for binding arbitration.
“The difference would be each party would select an arbitrator and then each arbitrator would select a chairperson. It’s something that’s happened in the past, years ago there would be arbitration panels to resolve disputes. So we sent that along for their consideration urging them to get the matter resolved.”
On August 5, Lento wrote the letter to Fassbender regarding the ongoing labour dispute.
“We wish to add our voices to the growing number of Boards across the province that are urging government to reach a fair, negotiated settlement prior to school start-up in September,” he wrote.
The letter went on to say that if an agreement can’t be reached, the board urges government to seek mediation or if necessary, binding arbitration.
“Our Board doesn’t see any long term benefits to a legislated resolution and anticipates considerable damage if agreement is not reached prior to school start-up in September.”
Lento end the letter by saying: “Once again we remind government that education is not a cost to be managed but an investment to be made — in our children, our economy and our future.”