Prince Rupert teachers and their employer remain on good terms despite the ongoing labour dispute between the B.C. Teachers’ Union (BCTF) and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), according to Prince Rupert School District superintendent Sandra Jones.
“The relationships in our small community have been respectful and very good all the way along. It’s difficult to maintain that when times are tough, but it is happening here in our little town,” said Jones.
Over the summer the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union (PRDTU) requested SD52’s board of education take positions on various topics of the dispute.
“They need to be advocates for education within our community,” said Kathy Murphy, president of the PRDTU.
In July, the board wrote a letter to B.C. Minister of Education Peter Fassbender, BCTF president Jim Iker and BCPSEA public administrator Michael Marchbank that stated it has “focused on what would be best for our students over the long term” and that both parties need to do the same.
The board noted settlements of court cases arising from Bills 27 and 28 are essential, but a compromise must be made between both parties.
“The government needs to bring money to the table, outside of the bargaining mandate, and both parties need to be realistic in order to agree on an appropriate amount and on the way in which the funding will be used,” reads the letter signed by chair Tina Last on behalf of the board.
“Local boards and local teachers’ unions need the flexibility to address local conditions, so we believe funding should not be formula-based, but situation-based,” it continued.
Murphy said while the PRDTU agrees the government needs to bring money to the table to seek a resolution, the topic of class size and composition is before the courts and should remain there. She noted this is the issue the BCTF had with the BCSPEA’s Framework for Settlement, which included a clause that the provincial union says would supersede the B.C. Supreme Court’s decision that found the government’s second law on classroom composition was unconstitutional.
The board sent a second letter to Fassbender in August against handing out savings from the strike and lockout to parents to help with childcare costs.
“The PRDTU totally agrees with that. We believe that the money saved from the strike needs to come back to education, not be dispersed,” said Murphy.
Jones said letters were sent to parents and guardians of Grade 12 students suggesting graduation transition packages be started, which are available on the district website.
“This is always a self-guided exercise even when school is in session, so it’s a great time for students to get busy on that now. It’s a four-credit course that is required for graduation,” said Jones, noting links to educational activities have been posted on each school’s website.