The provincial Liberals are hoping to reach an agreement with the BC Teachers Federation before the current contract expires. On January 24, Christy Clark proposed a ten-year collective agreement which would tie teachers’ pay raises in with the public sector and give them back the power to strike.
The province hopes to end reoccurring conflicts with BCTF by imposing the long-term contract. The deal also addresses two major concerns; teachers had their right to strike removed last year during contract disputes; meanwhile they’ve been earning pay raises at a lower rate than the average public-sector employee.
Doug Murray, president of Windermere Teacher’s Association, is in tandem with the BC Teachers Federation and has bluntly rejected the offer.
“My initial thought is, ‘How convenient right before an election; election games.’ It doesn’t seem like something that is going to benefit kids in the classroom… They’re just not addressing the funding issues that are here,” Murray told The Echo.
Aside from the terms of the deal, Murray is also dissatisfied with the length.
“I don’t think it’s good for anybody because it doesn’t allow for any flexibility with what can happen with things. What’s going to be locked in for ten years? Who’s to know? Look at Luongo. What I heard is that it’s a non-starter for ten years. Everybody wants stability, but that’s why you go to the table willing to negotiate.”
Regarding the proposal to tie pay increases in with other BC public workers, Murray isn’t convinced of any benefit.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me. You don’t tie [teachers pay] to anything else; tie it to other teachers in Canada.”
The proposal was considered a non-starter by BCTF president Susan Lambert.
While Clark’s proposal last Thursday was not well received by the BCTF, the BC Public Employers Association and the BCTF came to an agreement on Saturday on a bargaining frame. Both sides will begin meeting on February 4 and must come up with a proposal by March 1st; a facilitator will be assisting with communication. If a deal is not reached by June 1st, the facilitator will report on his/her findings and offer practical suggestions for continued negotiations.
The deal is considered an improvement from negotiations in 2011/12, Lambert says.