Teachers' job action costs Abbotsford school district

Ray Velestuk  -
Ray Velestuk
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Teachers’ job action in Abbotsford has so far cost the school district $34,000 in travel costs and an estimated equivalent of $180,000 in managers’ time, according to a report released at Monday’s public board of education meeting.

School district secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk said the district has felt the impact of managers supervising students during recess, lunch, and after school.

That task was previously handled by teachers, but they withdrew that role as part of province-wide job action that began in September, while their union – the B.C. Teachers’ Federation – tries to negotiate a contract with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA).

Their job action has also included not attending staff meetings or having any written communication with administrators.

Velestuk said 35 management staff have spent a combined total of about 270 hours each week – or about 20 per cent of their scheduled time – on supervision.

They are working, on average, 130 per cent of their regular hours, or 53 hours per week, he added.

They do not receive any additional pay for this, but Velestuk said the time invested amounts to about $10,000 per week – or about $180,000, to date, since the job action began.

Actual costs paid out are an additional $34,000 for the managers to travel to and from the supervision sites.

Velestuk said the time that managers take out of their work day to provide the supervision is affecting productivity.

He said several projects have been delayed due to difficulties in scheduling meetings.

“It creates a real struggle for us to try to get people together ... It’s quite disruptive, I think, to people trying to get their work done.”

For example, Velestuk said a plan to update and streamline the district’s technology systems is now about three or four months behind schedule. Also behind are projects such as file management, a standardized banking initiative, and web-based budget allocation, among others, he said.

Jeff Dunton, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association, said the report is evidence of the hard work that teachers put in.

“This shows that time to plan does matter,” he said, referring to the teachers’ requests for more prep time in their schedules.

Dunton said the $180,000 figure was speculative, and the report did not provide the offsets to the teachers’ freed-up schedules or the costs savings in not having staff meetings.

“Teachers definitely have more time for teaching (right now),” he said.

Dunton said although the district has been supportive in recognizing the hard work that teachers do, that message needs to be reinforced with the BCPSEA.

“Hopefully, trustees will feel compelled to put pressure on their side ... to come up with a bargaining settlement.”

NOTE: A letter to the editor from Jeff Dunton provides more detailed figures from the teachers' side. It can be found here.

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