BC teachers, government reach tentative agreement
After more than a year of negotiations, a tentative agreement has been reached between B.C.'s teachers and the government.
The BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) announced Tuesday evening that a two-year tentative agreement had been reached between the parties. The agreement still requires ratification.
“This has been a difficult year for all those involved with the public school system,” said Melanie Joy, Chair of BCPSEA. “We hope that boards and teachers will ratify this agreement and that we can all look forward to the new school year in September with a focus on what’s really important — delivering the best possible educational experience for our students.”
The executive of the BC Teacher's Federation is recommending ratification of the deal to its members but seemed less than enthusiastic about the agreement.
“We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government take its concession demands off the table,” said Susan Lambert, the president of the BCTF. "We’ve concluded this agreement in order to prevent government from imposing a contract that would further erode teachers’ hard-won rights and do more harm to students’ learning conditions."
While details of the agreement were not released, according to the BCTF news release on the the deal, which covers the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, the agreement imposes a wage freeze over the two years. It also does not address issues surrounding class size and composition the BCTF hoped to include in the contract.
The agreement comes after more than a year of negotiations, which included nearly 100 bargaining sessions, 16 of which came under the auspices of mediator Dr. Charles Jago.
The BCTF engaged in varying levels of job action over the course of negotiations. At the start of the school year teachers withheld from doing administrative work, such as supervision outside of class, meeting with principals and filling out report cards.
In March, the teachers went on strike for three days, after which the government imposed back to work legislation and a mediator. The teachers countered by holding back from after school activities, such as coaching sports' teams.
Last Wednesday, June 20, teachers held rallies across the province marking one year without a contract.
Education Minister George Abbott said he was pleased that an agreement was reached. "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," he 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."