Teachers debate withdrawal of extracurricular activities

The BCTF is hosting its annual general meeting in Vancouver and is expected to decide what actions to take.

Class trips, sporting events and even graduation ceremonies are in jeopardy as B.C. teachers are debating whether a province-wide withdrawal from extracurricular activities should take place.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is currently hosting its annual general meeting in Vancouver and is expected to decide what actions to take in response to the provincial government’s approval of Bill 22, which legislated teachers back to work.

Possible actions include an illegal strike, taking the province to court and halting extracurricular activities.

A decision is expected by Tuesday evening. Whatever delegates decide will go to a vote by the full membership later in the week.

Many teachers’ associations, including Mission, have already voted to withhold after-school activities.

But it is unclear whether that decision will change, depending on the final outcome of the BCTF discussions.

The current job action won’t affect most of Mission’s more prominent school sports — Mission secondary’s senior boys basketball and football teams won the provincials this year — but it is unknown  what will happen with other sports teams and major school events that rely on volunteer teacher efforts.

Mission Secondary School’s football coach Kevin Watrin said Monday afternoon he felt as though many teachers are “in a wait and see process.

“We’re waiting for [information] to come from the BCTF meeting happening this week,” he said over the phone.

In Abbotsford, no vote has taken place.

“Abbotsford did not vote to withdraw extracurricular, but there’s been lots of discussions around that and individual members are making individual decisions. It sounds like a lot of them are making the decision to no longer volunteer, which is their right,” explained Jeff Dunton, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association.

He is among 15 delegates representing the local group at the AGM.

When asked if a reduction in teachers services was a topic of debate at the AGM, Dunton was vague in his reply.

“We are discussing everything.”

He said he could not comment on the details until the BCTF officially releases the information.

BCTF president Susan Lambert has expressed outrage over the passing of Bill 22 last week, which teachers may challenge in the courts. The bill prevents teachers from striking and orders a cooling-off period until August. It also calls for a mediator to be brought in to help with contract negotiations.

B.C. teachers have been without a contract since last June. The government has maintained a “net zero” mandate, meaning that any contract agreements result in no additional costs to employers.

Teachers began limited job action in September, including refusing to complete report cards, and earlier this month they walked off the job for three days.

While Dunton would not comment on any of the discussions, he did say that Rick Guenther’s campaign for president was “going well.”

Guenther, an Abbotsford teacher who is on the BCTF board as a member at large, is challenging current president Lambert for the position. Chris Drouillard from 100 Mile House is also running.

“He made an excellent speech and is getting some good, positive feedback from members,” said Dunton.

The election for president takes place this morning (Tuesday).