Teachers on the Coast are angry the provincial government has proposed a new 10-year contract as bargaining is set to begin with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) on Feb. 4.
"Most teachers on the Coast see this as a blatant election ploy and harmful government interference in the collective bargaining process," said Sunshine Coast Teachers' Association (SCTA) president Louise Herle.
The new 10-year deal proposed for teachers was announced by the province Jan. 24, the day before representatives of the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) assembled to vote on a framework agreement for the next round of bargaining.
"At the BCTF representative assembly, over 400 teachers from around the province agreed that the government proposal is a clumsy, tight-fisted attempt at putting a monkey wrench in the hard work and framework agreement ratified by both the BCTF and BCPSEA," Herle said.
BCPSEA confirmed this week they ratified the framework agreement, but said they are also "reviewing the government report."
Premier Christy Clark called the new 10-year deal "simple and ambitious."
"Give Grade 2 students a chance to go their entire school career without a disruption," said Clark in a news release.
In exchange for teachers agreeing to the decade-long deal, government is offering a dedicated $100 million priority education investment fund available in the third year of the agreement to address education priorities, a new education policy council, indexing of public school teachers' compensation to the average of other major public sector increases and a new structured and transparent bargaining process.
Government boasts the plan also allows teachers a "formal opportunity to shape education policy," a voice in how to fund strategic priorities and allows the BCTF to negotiate directly with government, rather than through BCPSEA.
It also protects teachers' right to strike. "Teachers would still have the right to strike, so how does this solve the issue of disruption to schools?" Herle asked rhetorically.
Other issues teachers see with the proposal include the loss of the right to bargain compensation packages and class size and composition, the appointment of a special mediator rather than a mutually agreed to mediator and bargaining being set by government policy rather than the recently approved framework.
A press release from BCTF president Susan Lambert stated, "On the surface the premier's rhetoric sounds conciliatory after more than a decade of conflict between the BCTF and the BC Liberals but, in reality, her plan is yet another effort to severely limit teachers' constitutional right to bargain."
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