BC teachers call for mediation
FOLLOWING two more days of face-to-face bargaining and continued stonewalling from the government and its bargaining agent, the BC Teachers’ Federation announced Thursday it is calling on Premier Christy Clark to agree to mediation.
“BC teachers have put forward a fair and reasonable framework for a deal that would see improved learning conditions for students on the first school day in September,” BCTF President Jim Iker said. “However, two more days of bargaining have gone by with no progress or counter offers from government and BCPSEA. At this point, the best way to get that deal that works for BC’s public education system is through mediation. Christy Clark should say yes to mediation today.”
Iker explained that a facilitator has been part of the bargaining process since it started in February 2013. However, it has become clear that government needs more pressure to move off their entrenched positions.
“BC teachers have moved significantly at the bargaining table to bring the two sides closer together, but we have not seen similar efforts from Christy Clark’s government,” said Iker. “If Christy Clark agrees to mediation and allows government negotiators to come enter that process with a more open mind, we can get a deal.”
The BCTF’s framework for settlement that is currently on the table is based on five key points:
* a five-year term
* a reasonable 8% salary increase plus signing bonus
* no concessions
* a $225 million annual workload fund to address issues of class size, class composition, and staffing ratios as an interim measure while both parties await the next court ruling
* a $225 million retroactive grievances fund, over the life of the collective agreement, as a resolution to Justice Griffin’s BC Supreme Court decision that retroactively restored the stripped language from 2002. This fund would be used to address other working conditions like preparation time and TTOC compensation improvements, as well as modest improvements to health benefits.
“Our proposals are fair,” said Iker. “We have been dealing with a government that has a record of bargaining in bad faith and imposing unconstitutional legislation. Evidence from the government’s own officials presented in BC Supreme Court shows the government has stripped $275 million per year from BC’s public education system. That means an entire generation of BC kids have been short-changed. “There is no reason BC’s education system should be funded $1,000 below the national average. This government built in a series of surpluses and a sizeable contingency fund in their fiscal plan over the next several years. They have the money. It’s time to reinvest in BC’s students.”
EDUCATION Minister Peter Fassbender on Thursday released the following statement on the status of bargaining with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF):
“The bargaining teams worked hard through the weekend and progress was made.
“On Sunday, the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) tabled a comprehensive proposal to help end the stalemate, get kids back in school and create long-term stability for parents, students and teachers.
“BCPSEA’s package included an improved wage offer and realistic and flexible solutions to address class composition. It’s fully in line with other agreements we’ve reached with public-sector workers and it’s about as good as we can hope to get it.
“When negotiations adjourned late Sunday night, it was BCPSEA’s expectation that talks would continue Monday. BCPSEA reached out to the BCTF and just minutes ago they responded they’d be back to bargaining later this afternoon.
“I believe that both parties want this dispute resolved. If the BCTF wants to get a deal done they need to get back to bargaining and put all their cards on the table. While they’ve moved on their wage demands, they have not provided clear answers on what other cost items are still on the table. After 16 months, the BCTF is still pushing proposals that literally have blanks in them where there should be dollar figures.
“Students have been turned away from their classrooms and teachers are losing income. The BCTF owes it to everyone to fill in those blanks, table their full set of demands, and respond to the comprehensive settlement offer that BCPSEA has put on the table.
“BCPSEA has worked very hard to put together a settlement that is fair for teachers, fair for taxpayers, and fair to the 150,000 public-sector workers who’ve already reached agreements.
“As BCPSEA demonstrated last week and through the weekend, they are ready to bargain 24/7. We want to see an agreement by June 30 so everyone can head into the summer with this dispute behind us and the knowledge the system is on a path to long-term stability.”