Teachers Working On Call
There exists a practice of contract teachers selecting or expressing a preference for a particular TOC to fill a teacher absence. This is either done directly or through programming the preferred teacher on call into an Automated Dispatch System (a Personnel Absence Reporting System).
In March of 2003 the BCTF Annual General Meeting passed the following policies:
That the BCTF encourage locals through mid-contract modifications, to secure contract language that provides for an objective TOC callout procedure
That the BCTF locals be encouraged to seek elimination of the practice of contract teachers calling out, selecting, or expressing a preference for particular TOCs to fill a teacher absence (49.19 b)
Why shouldn’t teachers select their own TOCs?
Contract Teachers have fought for, and rightly demand, due process. They rely upon seniority to supply some degree of confidence in fairness in attaining a job.
This removes favoritism and nepotism in a process where the teacher's livelihood is at stake. This transparency and accountability are great assurances for contract teachers. TOCs also accumulate seniority but when a contract teacher expresses a preference for a TOC there is no transparency, no accountability, and no due process available to the TOC.
Teachers working on call are hired on the basis of qualifications and experience in the same manner as contract teachers. Research done in 2005 clearly showed that BC TOCs have the same level of education and experience as contract teachers. For contract teachers to express a preference among TOCs undermines professionalism.
Contract teachers do not have their teaching performance openly ranked or evaluated by their colleagues. The selection of one TOC over another implies that a contract teacher has evaluated the performance of a TOC. The practice of selecting one TOC over another raises ethical concerns.
Under a teacher request system TOCs must compete with each other on a daily basis in order to make a living. This actively undermines union solidarity.
The teacher request or preferential system sets up an informal yet powerful employer/employee relationship between colleagues that is obviously inequitable.
According to the most recent data teachers working on call make an average annual income of about $12,000. In order to get work TOCs are forced to ‘market’ themselves to their peers. The necessity of selling oneself to ones own colleagues undermines the dignity of the profession. Teachers expect objective evaluation and fair treatment from their employer. What teachers demand from their employer, teachers should practice. An employer cannot be expected to treat teachers working on call as valued members of the profession if contract teachers do not.
Why change now?
A New Contract
Although teachers working on call have had seniority rights for some time it is only recently that all TOCs across the province have begun to accumulate seniority. When contract teachers are selecting their own replacement they are determining who will or will not earn seniority. This is clearly contrary to union principles.
Twenty Years of Growth
The BCTF is nearly 20 years old as a union. It’s time to abolish the ‘two tier membership’ that a teacher request system perpetuates. Teachers working on call are full union members and need to be treated as such.
How will continuity in the classroom be maintained if teachers don’t request a certain TOC?
Continuity of service to students is a responsibility shared by the TOC, the principal and the contract teacher. It is the responsibility of administration to ensure that all TOCs called into a classroom are qualified to be there. The contract teacher ensures continuity by providing adequate day plans, notes on daily procedures and individual students. If a teacher is aware of a number of days that they will be absent all the absences can be booked at the same time to ensure the same TOC is called. TOCs ensure continuity of service by using professional judgment and integrity in following the day plan. Although it may take a little longer for the contract teacher to supply adequate instruction for an unknown TOC the time spent is a small price to pay for an investment in professionalism.
It’s about equal treatment, transparency and respect.