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Reynolds Secondary teacher asserts right to cross picket lines

Apr 09 2012
Teachers air grievances on Esquimalt Road on March 7, 2012. 

Teachers air grievances on Esquimalt Road on March 7, 2012.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, timescolonist.com

A Saanich teacher has asked his employers to protect him from being harassed by fellow instructors should he choose to cross their picket line if they strike later this month.

Physics teacher Carl Ratsoy asked for protection from the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and his colleagues at Saanich’s Reynolds Secondary School after a fiery email, penned by math teacher Matt Grinder, circulated among teachers there last week warning them not to cross any potential picket line. Although in Saanich, Reynolds is in the Greater Victoria School District.

“I find the contents of the email ... to be unwelcome, offensive and of a threatening nature,” Ratsoy wrote in an email leaked to the Vancouver Sun. Ratsoy said he stopped short of finding Grinder’s email harassment, but warned his employers that he would file a formal complaint if he feels harassed amid any job action by teachers.

Grinder’s email, dated April 4 and circulated to dozens of his fellow instructors, explains why he supports the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s “action plan,” to be presented to 41,000 teachers for a vote April 17 and 18. In it, Grinder asks teachers to support an illegal strike and stay out of school until any fines for the job action are dropped by the government.

Grinder says any teacher who crosses the picket line would have to be a “real sociopath.”

“[Crossing the picket line] is wishing horrific fines on your fellow teachers,” Grinder wrote in the email. “I would keep my children away from you, cause you’re evil. And I’ll shout at you.”

Ratsoy, who claims he has been harassed before and didn’t participate in the 2005 teacher strike, vowed to disobey any command from his union to “behave in an unlawful manner.”

“If there is an illegal strike by teachers then I will respect the collective agreement and report to work, regardless of the presence of picket lines,” he wrote.

Ratsoy quotes the harassment section of the last collective bargaining agreement and says it is his principal’s and superintendent’s legal duty to stop any form of workplace harassment.

The BCPSEA could not be reached Sunday afternoon, and Grinder told The Sun he had no comment.

The idea of an illegal teachers’ strike was promoted at last month’s AGM by the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, which distributed a pamphlet saying a protest using only ‘legal’ options would be “an expression of our acceptance of unjust laws and a certain defeat for our profession.”

Given the hefty fines in Bill 22 for illegal strike activity, the BCTF says a walkout could cost as much as $20 million a day in penalties — $1.3 million to the BCTF and up to $475 for each of the province’s 41,000 public school teachers.

While not divulging full details of the plan, recently re-elected BCTF president Susan Lambert said it includes asking members if they want to withdraw from all extracurricular activities — as teachers have already done in some school districts — and whether they want to walk a picket line in an illegal strike. She suggested a second vote would be called before such action would be authorized.

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