Along with their colleagues, Coquitlam teachers went on strike for five weeks to make a stand for public education. It cost them each $8000 or so.
School administrators, muzzled for the duration of the strike by district staff, continued to collect their pay. School trustees, superintendents, district staff, and CUPE all collected their pay. Education Ministers got paid as did Premiers. Heck, even parents are getting $40 per day per strike day, per child.
Everyone got paid- except teachers, and the first day they go back to work, Coquitlam stiffs them a day’s pay.
What? Coquitlam? Arguably the most progressive school district in B.C.? You sure you don’t mean Abbottsford, or Chilliwack… or Langley?
No I don’t (although Abbotsford also didn’t pay their teachers – surprise)
Yes, Coquitlam school district didn’t pay its teachers for Friday, September 19th– at least that’s the way it looks to teachers.
The first day after the strike, was the “prep” Friday. Teachers would come into school, prepare classrooms, get class lists, make course changes, and generally wind up June’s untidy finish and get ready for a Monday start. Fair enough says everyone.
But with a bad taste still in their mouths from a long, acrimonious strike, most teachers were in no mood to “volunteer” a day to prepare, even if it meant a messy start on Monday. Many teachers would not have worked Friday had they known they would not get paid.
So they asked if they would be paid for Friday.
“Oh yes, the strike and lockout are over as of Thursday and all teachers will be paid beginning on Friday, Sept. 19th .”
So said the B.C.T.F., B.C.P.S.E.A., and even the government.
But at the end of the month, Coquitlam Teachers, having worked 8 days in September, including Friday September 19th , got paid for 7 days.
Coquitlam teachers were understandably furious, and several of them got a bit insistent at the school board meeting this week, where the unfortunate situation was explained to them.
The explanation goes as follows:
Coquitlam teachers contractually get paid for twenty days each month, because some months have more school days, some fewer. Because it averages out to about 20 days per month, for simplicity’s sake, and by mutual agreement, that’s what teachers get paid each month.
So because teachers were on strike for 13 days in September, they get paid for 7 days rather than the 8 they worked.
The explanation would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.A school board with a $13 million dollar credibility problem isn’t capable of heading this off at the pass or even fixing it before it hit the fan?
A superintendent of schools can’t phone the union president and have him in to discuss the situation and perhaps agree on how to ameliorate or postpone the pain?
“Bit of a sticky wicket here Charlie, might you drop by the board office for a moment to hash it over?”
It could have been avoided so easily. A postponement, an incremental levy of some kind, or even an up front agreement to take the one day hit in September; anything but to just let it baldly appear on the first pay statement without explanation.
Coquitlam has a new Secretary Treasurer who has to prove he’s not like the last guy, upon whom has been dumped the blame for the district’s 13 million dollar deficit. I suppose that’s why he didn’t do what any secretary treasurer should do, suggest options to avoid such fiscal catastrophes.
But it’s not just his fault. Did no one realize how awful the optics of this would be; how cruel and disrespectful a statement it made to Coquitlam’s teachers?
Did anyone consider that this might not be the best way to welcome teachers back to their classrooms?
5 weeks of a grueling strike, convinced most teachers that the provincial government is unrelentingly anti teacher, but most teachers felt secure in the knowledge that the school district was generally supportive and appreciative of their contributions to education in Coquitlam.
So much for that idea.
If you’re not a teacher, it’s hard to comprehend how astoundingly insensitive this move was. It’s an et tu Brute, the unkindest cut of all, and it will take a long time to overcome.
Coquitlam school district has always been rightly proud of the work relationships enjoyed among union groups, teachers, management and trustees over the years.
Coquitlam teachers will be mollified, it will all have been just an unfortunate misunderstanding.Trustees will assure everyone that they love Coquitlam teachers, central office will be diplomatically apologetic – all as comforting as an abusive spouse trying to make amends.
I’m not sure this genie can be put back in the bottle.
But apparently, as Peter Fassbender might cheerfully say,
“The beatings will continue until morale improves.”