Teachers not allowed to do extra tutoring during strike, union says

Teachers are being told by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation that they cannot tutor students in exchange for the $40-a-day the province is giving parents during the strike.

“We should be on the picket line and not earning $400 a day by tutoring students,” said Benula Larsen, president of the 1,500-member Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

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The decision on tutoring was made at the BCTF assembly on Aug. 22, Larsen said. It does not affect teachers or teachers on call who regularly tutored students on the side prior to the strike.

But teachers who take on tutoring work over and above what they would normally do are undermining the solidarity of the union, especially if they are being compensated with the controversial $40-a-day the government is giving parents for children 12 and younger, said BCTF first vice-president Glen Hansman.

“We’re concerned about that money being used up and not in the system and so we’ve asked our members not to be taking on new tutoring or child-care-type jobs during the job action because we need to get everyone back to work and get that money into the system,” he said.

The BCTF views such activity as similar to crossing a picket line, Hansman said. “I know that’s … hard for some people to hear. People are just trying to put money into their wallets, but it’s kind of counterproductive, unfortunately, to the majority of teachers as a whole.”

Teachers — who are paid an average of $71,485 annually, according to the BCTF — are receiving no strike pay after union coffers ran dry, posing a significant financial burden for some households.

Union officials are not, however, trolling Craigslist ads and making notes, Hansman said.

“We don’t do Big Brother on our members. Some people have forwarded me links and everything, but it’s not our role to track that down,” he said. There is a code-of-ethics procedure union members and locals can use to file complaints, which are reviewed by a judicial committee.

Dory Thuot, president of Sooke Parents Education Advisory Council, said she can understand the desperation felt by parents and teachers as the strike drags on.

“I’m personally not aware of any teachers who are tutoring, but there’s certainly a lot of talk on Facebook about home-schooling,” Thuot said.

Thuot said younger students — such as her seven-year-old — aren’t as affected by the delay in starting school as the older ones, including her 16-year-old son.

“This whole thing has been incredibly divisive between teachers and parents. There are teachers who are single parents, and not being able to earn a living is really difficult for them,” Thuot said.

A Victoria teacher who asked not to be named said she didn’t know of any teachers who had taken up tutoring during the strike, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if there [are] some doing that.”

“They’re not getting paid and they’re trying to put food on the table.”

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

With a file from Vancouver Sun

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