Nanaimo school trustees want the province to repeal legislation that prohibits teacher job action and appoints a mediator to resolve the bargaining impasse between teachers and employers.
The board is writing a letter to Education Minister George Abbott asking that Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act, be rescinded.
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the legislation has served to prolong conflict in the public education system by angering teachers and the end result is negative impacts for students, parents and other district staff.
“Teachers are angry,” he said. “That kind of hostility and conflict is really counterproductive to a well-managed education system. It’s not sustainable. It would be a good thing if government reconsidered.”
Brennan said Bill 22 has spurred teachers to withdraw from voluntary activities as part of an action plan to resist the legislation – the only viable option left to them given the large fines for job action.
It appoints a mediator to help resolve the bargaining impasse, but prescribes what the mediator can and can’t talk about, he said.
“It’s an imposition, not a mediator,” he said. “Legislation is not the way to resolve disputes in bargaining. It should be a last resort.”
Brennan said the creation of the Learning Improvement Fund, a special fund to help deal with complex needs in classrooms, means district staff have to create an operating budget and then create another plan in addition to the operating budget – develop two budgets instead of one.
“It adds another layer of expenditure,” he said.
Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the union is happy with the board’s decision.
“I think it’s something that all partner groups stand united on,” he said. “I think it’s going to go a long way to know that when the chips were down, the local employer stood with the teachers. In these tough times with difficult-to-manage relationships, the trustees have made a strong leadership decision.”