B.C. school trustees have embraced a contract extension for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation that promises labour peace in schools until next spring.
With 85 per cent of boards of education participating July 4, the vote was unanimous in favour of the two-year contract that expires June 30, 2013. The deal imposes a two-year wage freeze on teachers, which had already been accepted by school support staff and other public sector unions in B.C.
“Boards of education are pleased that we have been able to achieve agreements with all of our unionized staff in these challenging times,” said Melanie Joy, chair of the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.
Teachers voted by a three-to-one margin last week to accept the contract extension, with 52 per cent of BCTF members casting ballots.
The deal puts off a bitter dispute over government changes to hiring, layoff and performance evaluation of teachers. Education Minister George Abbott said the agreement includes a letter of understanding to continue talks on those issues.
Those discussions are expected to resume this fall, dealing with professional development, evaluation and which issues are negotiated at the provincial and local level. The long-running dispute over class size and composition may also heat up again next year as the B.C. Liberal government heads into an election campaign.
BCTF president Susan Lambert said the agreement includes some improvements to teacher benefits and leave provisions. But the union is going to court to argue that imposing a two-year wage freeze violates their constitutional right to collective bargaining.
Lambert has also indicated that the BCTF will once again work to unseat the B.C. Liberal government, as it has done with advertising and protests in recent elections.