Teachers' strike: Summer school battle lines drawn in Richmond

Richmond Teachers' Association will ‘absolutely’ picket private school where district plans to hold international student program.

A secondary picket line, away from Richmond School District property, may pop up at the private Richmond Christian School on No. 5 Road, should the district attempt to run its international student program from there.
A new battleground has been laid in Richmond as the bitter fight between the teachers’ union and B.C. government drags on into the summer.
The Richmond School District has decided it will go ahead with its 400-student summer international program, starting July 7.
Due to the teachers’ strike, the district has been forced to switch the program’s venue to the privately-run Richmond Christian School on No. 5 Road, so the program’s 12 unionized teachers don’t have to cross any picket line at a school district facility.
Reacting to the news, however, the Richmond Teachers’ Association (RTA) said it would “most definitely” set up a secondary picket line at the Christian secondary school, teeing up a potentially controversial clash between teachers and fellow union members next Monday.
“This is going to go ahead,” said the school district’s director of international student programs, Richard Hudson.
“It’s a non-credit program, therefore the collective agreement with the union doesn’t apply. We do run into potential difficulties with picket lines so, therefore, we’re going to move it off-site to Richmond Christian.”
Hudson understands the union can set up a secondary picket line, but believes the picket “would not be sustainable, as we can get an injunction to cease and desist.”
When asked if the union intends to set up a secondary picket line at Richmond Christian, RTA president Al Klassen said, “absolutely.”
“The (school) district must expect a reaction from the union on this,” added Klassen.
“I would say there’s some truth in what they’re saying (about the collective agreement), but it’s not quite as straight forward as that. They’ll do one thing, we’ll do another, and then we’ll let the (Labour Relations Board) decide.”
In terms of the finances at stake, Hudson said about $600,000 will have been spent on airfares alone by the families of the international students.
“We had to make a decision on Friday as to whether to honour that commitment or not,” said Hudson, explaining that the 400 international students are enrolled for various periods of time throughout the summer, mostly for language programs and tourism/cultural activities around the Vancouver area.
“These programs don’t generate huge amounts of revenue for the district; maybe in the region of $250,000 net.
“It’s more about the district’s reputation with the international programs and the effect that might have downstream and the future capability to attract international students year-round.”
The costs of the summer program per student vary, said Hudson, from around $1,800 to $3,000, depending on what they’ve signed up for.
“In terms of revenue stream; it’s not a huge factor,” added Hudson. “As I said, it’s more about our reputation.”
The year-round international student program generates around $3 million profit for the district, said Hudson, which helps employ a significant number of staff as a result.
“We’re just trying to salvage this program, which we feel is an important one,” he said. “We appreciate it’s a difficult time, but we still have a job to do.”
No one from Richmond Christian School was available to contribute.


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