PARENTS don't have to worry about any ramping up of teacher strike action in the new year, according to representatives for the North Shore's teachers unions.
Daniel Storms, president of the North Vancouver Teachers Association, said Friday that unless the province takes a step in a negative direction, instructors will carry on with their current, limited-approach job action until an agreement is reached.
"We met as a provincial body at the beginning of November, and there was no appetite to do that," said Storms. "Obviously things can change, (but) we want to continue with the process we're doing."
Storm's West Vancouver counterpart, Rob Millard, made similar remarks.
"The only thing that would increase the job action would be some sort of catalyst from the government," said Millard. "We don't want to walk off the job and put parents in a bind."
B.C.'s teachers embarked on a "teach only" campaign since they voted to begin limited job action in September. Since the vote, elementary and high school instructors have refrained from participating in formal parent-teacher meetings, administration-dictated professional development and in the writing of some formal student evaluations.
On Tuesday, B.C.'s Labour Relations Board struck down a bid by the province to compel teachers to write report cards or accept a 15 per cent cut in pay. The decision means parents across the North Shore will be receiving blank or nearly blank report cards from their children's instructors this end-of-term, with one exception for Grade 12 students.
"The biggest concern we always hear is concerns around post secondary and scholarships as students begin to think about what they want to do for next year," said Chris Kennedy, superintendent of schools for West Vancouver.
"We have issued report cards to whatever extent they've been completed," added John Lewis, North Vancouver superintendent of school. "Some have very little information, perhaps just the attendance of the child; others are half-complete; and others are nearly fully complete."
It had been up to individual instructors, he said. Both Lewis and the association reps said parents can still get a good idea of their children's progress. Teachers will be available to communicate by phone, by email, through informal meetings and by other means, they said.
"We are used to report cards, and it's important obviously, but it's not essential; it's just one way that teachers communicate about a student's progress," said Storms.
West Vancouver PAC president Elaine McHarg said while report cards are blank, parents have still been able to get information from teachers directly, and she keeps up on the marks of both her children in the system.
Overall, she said, the impact hasn't been felt by parents. "Parents have to be thankful the teachers have kept extracurricular, kept teams and clubs running, and also that administrators have done such an admirable job making sure the schools are still operating," she said.
What does worry parents, however, is not knowing what will happen next, or when it will end.
"It's the uncertainty that's probably the toughest thing," she said.
While the union isn't planning to tighten the screws any time soon, it will be standing firm in its efforts until its main concerns are addressed, said Millard. These revolve around what it sees as fair compensation in comparison to other provinces, and tighter rules on class size and composition, he said.
"I have teachers literally in some cases breaking down in tears, saying: 'I can't do this,'" said Millard. "That wasn't happening 10 years ago."
The union wants class sizes capped and an increase in teaching assistance for children with special needs, both of which would improve learning in the classroom environment, he said.
Alan Chell, a member of the board of directors of the B.C. Public Schools Employers Association, said while the two sides continue to negotiate, the latest BCTF offer would cost an extra $2 billion in the first year.
He said they have to follow a mandate from the provincial government that means this labour agreement can't cost anything more than the last one. While he accepted that with inflation that could amount to a pay cut for teachers, he said there's no new money to put into the contract.
"The provincial government has made it very clear that this mandate is what two-thirds of the public sector unions have already signed off on," he said.
Both the teachers and the school districts are eager to see the issue resolved, they said.
"Teachers want to go back to doing their regular thing," said Storms. "Job action for teachers is very difficult."
Instructors have been leading voluntary extracurricular activities such as coaching and after-school clubs at their discretion, said Lewis.