First shots over the bow in B.C. teacher talks

With the carrot being stability in schools come September, the BC Teachers' Federation is holding out the stick of teachers' job action in a bid to speed up provincial contract negotiations.

B.C.'s public school teachers last struck in 2005.

With the carrot being stability in schools come September, the BC Teachers’ Federation is holding out the stick of teachers’ job action in a bid to speed up provincial contract negotiations.

Unless progress is made in contract negotiations in the next two weeks, the teachers’ union will hold a strike vote between June 24 and 28.

Critical of the BC Public Schools Employers Association (BCPSEA) for “stalling,” the BCTF is seeking improvements in wages, benefits and working conditions as well as the negotiation of more issues at the local bargaining table.

Jim Iker, a spokesperson for the provincial bargaining team, said it’s not unreasonable to expect a signed contract by the end of June and the threat of job action is necessary to get more substantive proposals on the bargaining table.

“We think the [provincial and local bargaining] tables need increased pressure,” Iker said. “We would like to find a solution by the 30th of June.”

But the BCPSEA disagrees that job action is necessary to spur talks because concrete proposals were to be put on the table Tuesday and another 15 meetings are planned.

“It’s disappointing to have talk of strike and job action when bargaining, per se, hasn’t really taken hold, and you have to question is this more of a positioning exercise and a political exercise than a bargaining one,” said Hugh Finlayson, CEO of the employers’ association.

Finlayson said it’s possible a contract resolution could be reached by the end of June but only if both sides “put their attention to bargaining.”

The teachers are seeking improvements to wages and benefits, as well as class size and composition, a reduction in case loads, more class preparation time and improved learning specialist ratios. Another issue important to teachers is local bargaining, which Iker said would be the best solution to local issues.

But much of what the teachers are asking for is out of the hands of the BCPSEA. The province has up to a year to address deficiencies in class size and composition legislation, which the BC Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional, and another year remains on the government’s “net zero mandate” wage freeze.

Finlayson said other unions managed to achieve collective agreements under the mandate while the class size and composition process has a separate timeline and a separate process.

As for expanding local bargaining, Finlayson said it would be inefficient and the two sides should agree to disagree and move on. “If the parties can’t come up with another model, you stay with the one you’ve got,” he said.

Meanwhile, the provincial teachers’ union fears a worsening of class size and composition if the issue isn’t addressed at the bargaining table, and Iker said teachers are falling behind other jurisdictions when it comes to salaries and benefits.

If contract talks can’t be rejuvenated, teachers will vote on whether to withdraw from administrative duties starting Sept. 6, when the 2011/’12 school year begins.

And that’s just the first phase. More job action could follow, although another vote would be required. Still, teachers plan to coach and assist with clubs as volunteers and parent teachers meetings won’t be affected.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Virus Busters assemble to take on COVID-19 germs in Langley

A team of 20 business owners and employees are working to kill viral bacteria in public places

VIDEO: Langley schools transition students to at-home learning

During the next two weeks a new model will be rolled out to parents, pupils of kids in public school

Two Fraser Valley care home workers confirmed to have COVID-19

Health authority has a team at a Langley and a Surrey seniors facilities informing staff, residents

Why is this Langley pedestrian bridge purple?

Cole Harmony Bridge connects pedestrians to either side of 68th Avenue at 200th Street

VIDEO: Langley women makes homemade masks for neighbours amid COVID-19 pandemic

Masks are made of paper towel, elastic bands, and staples

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Significant snowfall forecast for Interior mountain passes

Allison Pass, the Okanagan Connector, Rogers Pass and Kootenay Pass could see 15 to 25 cm of snow

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Most Read