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Teachers up pressure on province

They're to withdraw from extra-curricular activities when school resumes after break

Delta students will soon feel greater impacts of the dispute between public school teachers and the government as teachers get set to pull out of extra-curricular and volunteer activities.

At a special meeting at North Delta Secondary, Delta teachers voted overwhelmingly to "strongly encourage members to withdraw from all extra-curricular/voluntary activities" starting March 17.

What it means for students is their out of class activities will be impacted once spring break in Delta ends April 2.

Delta Teachers' Association Paul Steer told the Optimist it was a difficult decision, but teachers have been left with no choice due to the actions of government.

"The passage of Bill 22 and its provisions has teachers very upset and very angry and willing to look at everything they're doing. Teachers do a lot outside the bookends of the regular school day," said Steer.

"Teachers are very reluctant to have to resort to this step, but there is no other way. Withdrawing extra-curricular work and volunteer work is about the only recourse teachers have that would be legal," he said.

The DTA says Delta teachers contribute thousands of volunteer hours every year.

Some of the activities affected will be: sports teams, theatre productions, tutorials, schoolbased clubs, Christmas concerts, math and science fairs, student councils, yearbooks, talent shows, fashion shows, trips and dances.

The war of words between teachers and government continued last week as Bill 22, legislation banning any further teachers strikes, passed.

The legislation orders a "cooling off " period until the end of August, during which time both sides are to try to work out a new contract through a mediator. It's something that seems unlikely at this stage as both sides appear entrenched.

The DTA contends the new agreement Victoria is trying to impose must meet all the government's objectives for cutting costs and tightening its political control of public education.

Teachers have been without a contract since last June.

The Ministry of Education says the legislation does not impose a new contract. Rather, it extends the existing contract to cover the mediation period. If a new agreement cannot be reached by the beginning of summer, the mediator will make non-binding recommendations to government by June 30.

"I know this has been a challenging year for all involved and I am hopeful that through the mediation process, both parties will have the opportunity to work together in a constructive way to resolve issues and reach a negotiated collective agreement," said Education Minister George Abbott.

Delegates at the B.C. Teachers' Federation annual meeting this week voted in favour of a membership fee increase to raise money for their battle against Bill 22.

Responding to the government's announcement that Abbott this week signed a memorandum of understanding with Huangpu Education Bureau towards establishing a B.C.-certified offshore high school, BCTF president Susan Lambert said, "It's a stunning contradiction."

Lambert said Abbott went to Shanghai praising B.C.'s public education system with the goal of luring more fee-paying foreign students, while at the same time actively undermining the quality of education with Bill 22.

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