Teach­ers, gov’t in me­di­ated con­tract talks

The Prince George Citizen - - Local -

B.C.’s teach­ers’ union and the province be­gan me­di­ated talks for a new con­tract on Wed­nes­day, but par­ents won’t have to worry about any dis­rup­tion to the start of the school year even if ne­go­ti­a­tions fail.

Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Teri Moor­ing said there is no sce­nario in which teach­ers would un­der­take job ac­tion or a strike be­fore school be­gins on Sept. 3, even if me­di­a­tion ends with­out a deal.

“We’re go­ing to start the school year, re­gard­less,” Moor­ing said. “What would be more com­fort­able for ev­ery­one, ob­vi­ously, would be a col­lec­tive agree­ment in place. And that’s our goal. Eight days of me­di­a­tion is ac­tu­ally a lot of time.”

The col­lec­tive agree­ment be­tween teach­ers and gov­ern­ment ex­pired on June 30, but its terms carry on un­til a new con­tract is signed. Me­di­a­tion is sched­uled for eight days, with me­di­a­tor David Schaub in­sti­tut­ing a me­dia black­out on spe­cific pro­pos­als on the ta­ble.

Teach­ers are one of the last ma­jor pub­lic-sec­tor unions yet to sign a new con­tract with the NDP gov­ern­ment.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ca­role James set a “sus­tain­able ser­vices” man­date that re­quires unions to agree to a three-year term, with a two-per-cent an­nual wage in­crease, and the abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate side fund­ing for ser­vice im­prove­ments in their sec­tor.

So far, 68 per cent of B.C.’s 330,000 union­ized pub­lic-sec­tor em­ploy­ees have new deals, in­clud­ing ma­jor unions like the B.C. Gov­ern­ment and Ser­vices Em­ploy­ees Union, Doc­tors of B.C., and nurses.

“We want the par­ties to reach a fair deal that works for stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers,” the Min­istry of Fi­nance said in a statement. “That’s why we’re pleased both sides have agreed to me­di­a­tion. This is en­cour­ag­ing.

“We’re op­ti­mistic that the par­ties will find solutions and reach a deal that works for stu­dents, teach­ers, and ev­ery­one in the school sys­tem.”

Moor­ing said a new con­tract must ad­dress a “crit­i­cal teacher short­age.”

There’s not enough cer­ti­fied teach­ers to fill class­rooms in north-cen­tral B.C. and on the north coast, she said. There also aren’t enough teach­ers left on the sub­sti­tute list in south­ern Van­cou­ver Is­land and Metro Van­cou­ver, which means spe­cial needs teach­ers of­ten have to fill in to the detri­ment of their classes, said Moor­ing.

Teach­ers ar­gue part of re­cruit­ment prob­lem is that B.C. has the sec­ond-low­est start­ing salary in the coun­try.

Also loom­ing over the ne­go­ti­a­tions is the BCTF’s 2016 vic­tory at the Supreme Court of Canada, which re­stored class size and com­po­si­tion lan­guage the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment had im­prop­erly stripped from teacher con­tracts.

Both the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral and cur­rent NDP gov­ern­ment have sought to rene­go­ti­ate that lan­guage, claim­ing it is a com­pli­cated series of ra­tios and caps that vary by school district.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.