The provincial government reached a tentative agreement with teachers Tuesday night that is being celebrated by some and tolerated by others.
“We are pleased that mediation has resulted in a tentative memorandum of settlement between the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF),” Education Minister George Abbott said in a press release following the announcement June 26.
The BCTF countered with their own press release, noting the feeling was not mutual.
“After a long and difficult round of negotiations, we were compelled into this process under threat of huge fines and further punitive legislation,” said BCTF president Susan Lambert, although she did have some positives to point out. “We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government to take its concession demands off the table.”
One thing government kept on the table was their net zero mandate.
“The term of the agreement runs until June 30, 2013, sets out improved language to manage leave provisions and is consistent with government’s net zero mandate,” Abbott said. “In addition, the parties agreed to further discuss and seek mutually agreeable improvements on key policy issues to provide students with the best education possible.”
The tentative agreement is for two years, retroactively, starting when the teachers’ former contract ended on June 30, 2011, meaning a new contract will be the topic of discussion once again come June 30, 2013.
As Coast Reporter went to press Thursday, teachers across the province were voting whether or not to accept the agreement. The results of that vote are expected today Friday; however, Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association (SCTA) president Louise Herle said she believed teachers would accept the deal.
“I expect that the membership will remain united,” she said Wednesday, noting the BCTF was recommending acceptance.
She said local teachers are disappointed it took so long for concessions to be taken off the table so that an agreement could be reached.
“No other public sector union was subject to such an attack on due process and fair treatment,” she said.
When asked how acceptance of the tentative agreement would impact the local teachers’ withdrawal of volunteer after school activities, Herle noted, “There will be no ‘return to normal’ until teachers are able to freely negotiate a fair and reasonable collective agreement that addresses salaries, benefits and working and learning conditions.”
The BCTF is moving forward with their legal challenge of Bill 22 in Supreme Court. Herle said the case will be heard Dec. 3 to 6. The BCTF is also going back to court to seek “redress for the government’s inaction in rectifying the Charter violations in Bills 27 and 28,” Herle noted.
“We are required to open negotiations again in just eight months, and we will once again be looking for fair treatment at the bargaining table and long awaited improvements for our members and our students,” Herle said.