If you needed further proof that the effects of B.C. teacher’s strike and subsequent lockout are not just limited to parents, teachers, and students, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival is also taking a hit.
The festival has had a 15 to 20 percent decrease in sales of school tickets over the last week, and with many schools calling to cancel their attendance, event organizers are expecting a further drop in school attendance.
“The whole festival is built around the schools coming,” Katharine Carol, the artistic and executive director of the VICF, told the Straight by phone, “because it’s work created for children, so there’s always a curriculum connection component in mind even if it’s not an educational show.”
The lockout, mandated by the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association, states that all teachers will take a 10 percent pay cut until the lockout is lifted, in response to decreased work due to the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation strike. Teachers are also not allowed to work during lunch or recess, or for more than 45 minutes before or after school.
Originally, many schools were heading to the children’s festival on Granville Island for day-long field trips, which would take place over the lunch hour. Teachers are allowed to accompany the students over their lunch hour; however, it is currently uncertain whether the teachers are covered for insurance by WorkSafe B.C.
“The employers are waiting to hear from WorkSafe to confirm [that] yes they will be covered,” says Carol. The union believes that it is not covered, however the Ministry is saying that teachers are still covered.
Nevertheless, with the children’s festival starting tomorrow, teachers are continuing to cancel in the face of uncertainty.
One school will get a special visit from the children’s festival tomorrow morning, because the group its students were slated to see, French urban folk band Le Groupe Swing, was able to travel to the audience instead. The school is in Port Coquitlam, which is part of the Coquitlam school district scheduled to strike on Wednesday as part of the teachers’ federation’s rotating strikes.
“She [the teacher] had spent the year, her school year, including in her curriculum videos from this group,” says Carol. “The students had learned two of the songs, she got the lyrics from the artist, and they really knew the group’s work, and they’re really excited. So we went to the artist and said, ‘Can you work with us?’”
The result of that conversation was the decision to have Le Groupe Swing perform at Citadel Middle School on Wednesday (May 27) from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Unfortunately, the festival is unable to do that for every school, and instead the event is suffering a major loss. “If the teachers cannot bring their classes, we will end up with shows that have much much smaller audiences and we may end up having to cancel some performances, which is very sad for us and the performers,” says Carol.
She understands that both groups are working with each other and with the festival to find a solution. “We know that it’s a difficult situation for everybody,” she says, “and we’re just trying to do what we can so that the kids can some see the shows they’ve been excited about seeing, and participate in the activities that we have here for them, and have a fun day at the festival.”
While official representatives for the teachers’ federation and the employers’ association were not available for comment by deadline, media representatives for both parties said that they were waiting to hear from WorkSafe B.C, which was also not available for comment by deadline.
Update: The B.C. employer's association responded in an email saying that the teachers are, in fact, covered under WorkSafe, but they are still waiting to hear back from WorkSafe officially.