On Monday, Campbell River schools were empty of students and teachers.
This wasn’t the result of a Pro-D day or Canada adopting Memorial Day. On Monday, B.C. teachers entered phase two of a strike. This includes rotating job action over four days. Every school in B.C. will miss one day. The teachers union is asking the government for higher wages and smaller class sizes.
I spoke to Phil Cassidy, a teacher at Carihi, about the strike.
“Twelve years ago, in our contract, it specified how many kids per class, and if there were kids with special needs, how many aids they would get. The government stripped that out of our contract 12 years ago, so we’ve been taking the government to court ever since, and winning every time, and the government says [they] don’t understand, and go back to court with us, and dragging this whole thing out. So we want that language to be reinstated.
“There was a time when so many kids meant a counsellor, and so many more kids meant another counsellor, or half a counsellor, and so many kids meant a librarian. Now, in order to have a counsellor in the school, there are bigger class sizes. Eight hundred kids means 50 teachers. In order to have a counsellor, that counsellor counts as a teacher, so now you have 800 kids and 49 teachers… Really, there should be 51 teachers, in order to keep class sizes [consistent].”
As for missing days of school? Will it deduct time from exam prep? Cassidy said that, unless the job action escalates to Stage Three, it shouldn’t affect students.
“I think one or two days isn’t going to significantly alter things; more than that gets to be a problem for sure. If you think about the wintertime – the storm days – it’s kind of like that. We can absorb that.”
Considering the diverse demands of the education system, some people question whether increased wages are necessary.
“We’d like the raise to reflect the cost of living… Over time, the amount of money that’s been spent on education by the government has gone down, a lot, to the point where we’re a thousand dollars behind the rest of the country.”
Most people, from either side of the fence, hope that this ongoing battle can be resolved quickly and efficiently. We can only hope that by the start of the new school year in September, a clear contract will be established.