North Okanagan students are still out of classes but not for long.
Teachers remain off the job today as part of a three-day strike that began Monday to protest the government’s proposed back-to-work legislation.
“We expect to be back in schools Thursday,” said Bruce Cummings, Vernon Teachers Association president.
A Labour Relations Board ruling only permitted labour action over three days this week.
Parents are still encouraged to keep their children home from school during the strike, but some did show up Monday.
“There were some secondary kids working on their Dragon Den projects and in elementary schools, some parents and students came in for books,” said Bev Rundell, Vernon School District superintendent.
The LRB has stated the union can strike one day next week but notice to the employer would have to be given by Thursday.
There is also the possibility that government legislation could be adopted in time to prevent a further walkout.
“If MLAs use all of their time, it could be Monday before it’s finished,” said MLA Eric Foster of the Legislature’s consideration of the bill.
While the Liberals have a majority and could force an end to discussion, Foster says that is the wrong move unless the debate drags on.
“Everyone should have a chance to speak to it,” he said.
As part of the strike, teachers are handing out information at select schools: Ellison, Coldstream, Vernon, Beairsto, Alexis Park, Charles Bloom, BX and W.L. Seaton.
Upwards of 600 teachers gathered along 32nd Street Monday to oppose the legislation.
“We want to let people know we have concerns about how the government is addressing negotiations,” said teacher Barry Dorval.
“Bill 22 is bad for teachers and bad for students. It takes off limits for the number of students in classes and it takes away the responsibility of districts to have class size averages. They’ve removed limits on special needs learners without providing any real support.”
However, Foster says the teachers are not accurately portraying the government’s position.
“Those things are on the table,” he said.
“It says there will be nothing over 30 (students) in high school classes unless it’s agreed to by the teacher and they will be compensated for it.”
The VTA protested in front of Clarence Fulton Secondary Monday because it claims the district refused to let the union participate in a District Parents Advisory Council meeting at the school.
“It’s hard to say the disrespect I felt,” said Cummings.
The session looked at the government’s education plan and Cummings says teachers should have been at the table.
“We want to provide information to parents.”
Rundell says it was up to DPAC to organize the meeting and decide who was there.
“It wasn’t our meeting to invite or uninvite people,” she said, adding that she asked DPAC to postpone the session because emotions among everyone involved in the education system are high.
DPAC officials insist they were the ones who asked the teachers not to attend.
“There are some parents who are teachers and some who are not uncomfortable with the union being there,” said president Nicole Makohoniuk, adding that DPAC does not want to be caught in the middle of the dispute between the union and the government.