Teachers prepare for job action

While the school year started on Tuesday, the schedule could be disrupted if a dispute between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province is not resolved quickly.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has served strike notice and teachers are now in the teach only phase of a job action.

This means teachers are continuing to teach, but they are not attending meetings with administration or supervising outside classroom activities.

Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union, said the present job action is intended to highlight the union’s concerns without disrupting classes.

“It has brought attention to the problem, but it’s not always going to work,” he said.

At issue is the teachers’ contract, particularly wage issues.

Epp said a starting teacher with a four-year bachelor’s degree and no previous experience in British Columbia earns $42,800 a year, while a teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years’ experience earns $81,000 a year.

In Edmonton, a starting teacher earns $62,000 a year while the top wage for teachers is $99,100 a year.

He added that the cost of living in Alberta is considerably lower than in British Columbia.

Epp said teachers are also paid less than others with similar levels of education.

Registered nurses in the province, who also must take at least four years of university training to qualify, have a starting wage of $58,000 a year, increasing to $92,000 a year after eight years’ experience.

In addition to the pay concerns, Epp said teachers need more preparation time.

At the elementary school level, teachers in B.C. receive 90 minutes of preparation time, while in Ontario, one-quarter of a teacher’s time is scheduled for preparation.

Epp said the two factors are affecting teachers.

“The job satisfaction has gone down a lot and the stress level has gone up,” he said.

The last time teachers in B.C. were on strike was in 2005, after the contract had expired. During that strike, in October, teachers were off the job for two weeks. The province ruled that an illegal strike.

In 2002, teachers took part in a one-day walkout after contract negotiations stopped.


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