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.

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

 

Just Posted

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Emergency services were on the scene of an apparent stabbing Friday afternoon (June 11) in the 2400 block of Countess Street in Abbotsford. (Photo: Kaytlin Harrison)
Two suspects arrested after apparent stabbing in Abbotsford

Incident occurs Friday afternoon in 2400 block of Countess Street

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. (ADOBE STOCK IMAGE)
Shining a light on brain injury in Canada

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read