Temporary Teacher Blues
Geoff Peters, 1979
The number of teachers on temporary contracts was a huge problem in the 1970s. School Boards matched the number of people on leave (Maternity, Education, Long Term Sick Leave, or Disability) with an equal number of temporary contracts.
The Boards argued that if all the teachers on leave returned at once, and no new people went on leave, then they did not have a layoff procedure to solve the problem. Of course, as we all know, usually the same number of people are on leave year by year, and there is always an attrition rate due to retirement, resignations etc. This was prior to unionization so there was no Seniority based layoff and recall. Boards also appreciated that they had a pool of ‘casual’ teachers from which they could pick and choose who to hire, or dump, without explanation. Some Board officials termed it an ‘extra Probationary period’. Some Boards went well beyond matching leaves to temporary contracts, and just kept as many teachers on temporary as they wanted.
Some teachers were on temporary contract, with no right of recall, or rehiring, for years. Three to six years was common, and there were some on temporary for up to 14 years.
Teachers ‘stuck’ on temporary were unable to apply for loans or mortgages. They were also discouraged from involvement in the local Associations, both subtly, and directly. They were in no position to speak up in any way, in staff rooms or local meetings. (Principals were members in those days, and controlled most local Associations.) Some were subject to sexual harassment. The emotional toll was huge.
The BCTF Learning Conditions Committee and LC Division staff promoted a campaign of political action and lobbying of Superintendents and School Trustees to limit the number of temporary contracts and create fair procedures to convert them to continuing contracts.
When we negotiated our first local Collective Agreements, a priority was language to regulate conversion to continuing. In some districts today, teachers are hired directly to continuing appointments. This song was written for the Learning Conditions network conference for the temporary teacher appointment campaign.