With the teachers strike into its second week of the new school year and tensions continuing to grow, several parents and teachers are speaking up about their mounting concerns.
Towards the end of Rocky Mountain School District no. 6’s monthly board meeting on Sept. 9, a letter was read from a concerned parent that asked what the board was doing to encourage a resolution.
In response, Chair Jim Jenkinson revealed a July 2 letter that the Board had sent to both the Minister of Education Peter Fassbender and BCTF President Jim Iker. The letter stated how concerned the Board was about a “lack of any substantial progress” and urged the parties to come to a swift conclusion using any and all available dispute resolution mechanisms, round the clock bargaining and a total media blackout.
Mike Archibald, president of the Golden Teachers’ Association, was the first to speak when the meeting opened up for questions from the audience. Archibald asked the Board to write another letter to the B.C. government, this time urging them to use binding arbitration in order to put an end to the strike.
B.C. teachers were 99.4 per cent in favour of proceeding to binding arbitration during a vote the next day, but the Province has twice rejected the process as a means to end the strike, saying that a negotiated agreement is the best way to end the dispute.
Jenkinson showed an immediate reluctance for the Board to get involved in negotiations by encouraging the government to go through arbitration. Golden Trustee, Jane Fearing disagreed and tabled a motion to include the words “binding arbitration” in a letter to the government and the BCTF. The motion failed with only Fearing and Trustee Betty Lou Barrett voting in its favour.
“(Binding arbitration) is not free collective bargaining,” said Trustee Sandra Small. “It forces a settlement and creates a winner and a loser…I think the sides should find a settlement and kill the cycle of disputes every 2 or 3 years.”
Doug Murray, president of the Windermere Teachers’ Association, would also make a request to the Board about what it should include in its proposed letter. He asked them to urge the government to drop the controversial E80 clause that Iker has called one of the biggest impediments to the two sides reaching a deal because the effect it would have on class size, class composition and specialist teacher provisions.
Once again, the Board declined to get involved in the negotiations in that manner (although they did rule to send another letter that didn’t include anything about binding arbitration or E80) and it proved to be a source of frustration for many in the audience.
“I’m very disappointed that the Board would not include the possibility of binding arbitration in their letter to the government,” said Archibald following adjournment.
Some hope of a settlement did arrive on Sept. 11 as veteran mediator Vince Ready appeared set to re-enter the fray.