Barred from district office

Pickets: Legal action keeps striking teachers away.

The absence of pickets in front of the school board office on Shuswap Street since last week is not sitting well with the local teachers union.

Superintendent of schools Glenn Borthistle says the district applied to have the picketers banned, firstly, because no BC Teachers Federation members work there.

“Our district is somewhat unique in that in many district offices, there would be BCTF members working out of the district office. So that was one reason why we proceeded with that.”

He said the other reason is the district’s fiscal year end.

“The issue was that our support staff were not able to cross the picket line.

“Accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing, clerical staff were not able to cross the picket… We are coming up to our fiscal year end on June 30; it’s important our financial department be able to get that work done.”

He said lawyers for the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the BCTF were involved in the process.

Asked about the cost to the district, he replied: “Because services were provided by our employers association it didn’t cost us anything directly.”

He said Friday he’d heard that teachers are not pleased.

“I spoke with the union president (North Okanagan Shuswap Teachers Association president Brenda O’Dell) yesterday about this. I expressed my regret it has been taken as something against teachers, but our intent was to allow the business functioning of the office at this time of year to proceed.

“We were not trying to impact the strike action of teachers in terms of the educational side of the district.”

He said during the strike the district will “continue to work with our union to make the best of a very difficult situation.”

O’Dell said when the teachers have taken strike action in the past, they have picketed at the board office. To her knowledge this was an unprecedented action.

“I’m disappointed we had to agree to take our pickets down from there.

“The school board wanted their five employees to be able to be back at work because they do important work over there. We are disappointed that they asked for that  to happen.”

She said other school districts in the province are having their board offices picketed.

O’Dell also noted that the union received a Labour Relations Board order to stop picketing at the operations complex in the industrial park as well.

“We’d already agreed that we’d allow buses to run for kids to go for provincial exams – I don’t know what was so important…”

She said she’s not sure what the ramifications will be.

“I’m sure we’ll have discussions about what that all means when we’re done.”