Call to Extend Recall Rights for Vancouver Teachers

Lively Rally in Vancouver Supports Teachers at International Language Schools Canada

Jean Ardila is Director, Bargaining Unit 1, Education and Training Employees Association (ETEA)

Workers' Forum: We are here at the International Language Schools Canada (ILSC) Vancouver location where there was a very successful rally this morning. What are the demands of the ILSC teachers?

Jean Ardila: I have been a teacher at ILSC Vancouver for 17 years. I am the Director of Bargaining Unit 1 which represents the teachers here. We held the rally today to tell ILSC to extend recall rights for its teachers. Besides former and current ILSC teachers, colleagues from other schools and other supporters were here as well.

Jean Ardila addressing the rally at ILSC in Vancouver on March 16.

We want ILSC to agree to extend our recall rights for as long as it takes for the school to be back to full operation. In our contract we have a provision for recall for 12 months and that was because our industry is somewhat cyclical and historically there is a slowdown in enrollment from November to March and teachers can be laid off for several months. This language was not meant to deal with the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic. About 99 per cent of our students are international students doing immersion courses, preparing to go into post-secondary schools in Canada or elsewhere. Because of the travel restrictions enrollment is down about 90 per cent. A few of our teachers were already laid off at the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020, as usual, so their 12 months has already expired and they have been terminated. By the end of April we could lose 31 teachers. We had 77 teachers at the start of the pandemic.

WF: What has been the response to your campaign?

JA: Today was our first physical manifestation. We have a marvelous online social media campaign with a petition at and a Facebook page, Friends of ILSC Teachers Vancouver, where lots of long time teachers and students, some from as long ago as 20 years, are posting photos and messages of support. Speakers at the rally today pointed out that we teachers have been the main factor in the success of ILSC as a leading English Language school in North America. The school was founded in Vancouver and it is our work that has made it possible for the school to expand to Toronto, then Montreal, now Australia and India.

WF: What is the situation in other schools?

JA: All the other language schools in Vancouver with ETEA contracts have extended recall rights. In Toronto last June ILSC agreed to extend the recall rights of our colleagues there who are members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. What we are asking for is an extension until international students are able to fly into the country and things are back to the way they were at the school.

WF: What are you asking the community to do to support you?

JA: We call what ILSC is doing COVID opportunism. We are teachers who have been here for 10 to 18 years or more. We are in our seventh collective agreement and because we have advocated for ourselves we have five to six weeks paid holidays, extended benefits. We have a 10-stage pay grade and many are at the top level. By terminating teachers the school wants to wipe out all of that. They have told the union in writing and told the teachers who are being terminated that they can reapply for their jobs and will start all over again, with a probation period, entry level wages and benefits. With our campaign we are affirming our rights as workers, as teachers at this school and calling on ILSC to do the right thing.

On March 17 we have an informal mediation under the auspices of the BC Labour Relations Board to hear the union's complaint that the company is violating Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act which requires them to negotiate a readjustment plan and act in good faith. We will see if ILSC has heard our message or we have more work to do.

We want people to keep signing and circulating the petition and posting on the Facebook page and we will keep everyone informed about developments and further actions.

To support the ILSC Teachers:

- Sign and circulate the petition

- Visit and post on the Friends of ILSC Vancouver Teachers Facebook  or Instagram pages.

(Photos: Friends of ILSC Vancouver Teachers)

This article was published in

March 19, 2021 - No. 19

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