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Delta, B.C., teachers advised to cancel field trips for rest of school year

Students listen as British Columbia Minister of Education Peter Fassbender speaks at the official opening of Goldstone Park Elementary School in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday April 24, 2014

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Teachers in Delta have been advised not to plan field trips for the rest of the school year – and to cancel any that had been in place – as frustration mounts over the lack of progress in contract talks for the province's 41,000 public-school educators.

The Delta Teachers' Association has issued a bulletin to its members advising them to scrap the trips, given what it calls the uncertainty of the bargaining process and the possibility of further job action before the school year is through.

But the association's move was met by a similar push for leverage from the provincewide employer, which Wednesday said it would stop paying benefits for all teachers.

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Paul Steer, president of the Delta association, said in an interview that his group is doing the responsible thing by scrapping the field trips.

"We know that due to the recalcitrance and the lack of progress at our provincial bargaining table, there exists at least the possibility of the need for an escalation before the end of the school year," he said.

"With that in mind, good planning reminds us that it's probably wise not to commit a lot of time, energy and human resources to big field trips, social events of various kinds, that might lead to disappointment if they had to be cancelled."

Mr. Steer said that while the memo advises teachers not to plan any more field trips at all, it might still be possible to have small trips if they fit within the confines of the school day.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender told reporters he was disappointed by the Delta association's decision.

The association sent the bulletin to its members Tuesday – one week after 10 districts cancelled recess as part of a limited job action.

The province's teachers earlier this year voted 89 per cent in favour of granting the B.C. Teachers' Federation a strike mandate.

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Mr. Fassbender said the impact of limited action is anything but.

"What is clear is even with what is called limited action – Phase 1, as the union referred to it – it is having effects in classrooms throughout the province," he said.

The minister said a letter from the B.C. Public School Employers' Association has been sent to the BCTF bemoaning the stall in contract talks. The letter says there has been no recent progress in negotiations.

Mr. Fassbender said the employer will stop paying benefits to all teachers during the limited action, and will also cancel an administrative day in late June – meaning teachers won't be paid for that day.

He said he hopes the measures will prompt the BCTF to put forth a better offer. Mr. Fassbender said the cost to the federation from the benefits would be in the millions.

When asked if he thought the measures might hurt, not help, the bargaining process, Mr. Fassbender said it was the federation that took a strike vote.

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A union spokeswoman said Jim Iker, the group's president, was not available for an interview Wednesday.

Mr. Steer said teachers aren't asking for "the moon and the stars" – just a fair deal.

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Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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