Premier Christy Clark and B.C. education minister Peter Fassbender held a press conference earlier this afternoon to address the tentative deal that had been reached with the BCTF on the teachers’ labour dispute.
She termed the deal as a “remarkable achievement after almost 30 years of dysfunction,” noting that “we have also reached a historic six-year agreement with teachers. This has never happened before in British Columbia.”
It follows the provincial government’s commitment to provide a deal that fits within the fiscal plan and is affordable to taxpayers.
As teachers have been without a contract since June 2013, the six year contract will begin then and retroactively allows for five years of labour peace.
“A negotiated settlement is really important, because it allows us to reset that relationship [between teachers and government] that has been dysfunctional for so long. Resetting the relationship, it means we can sit respectfully, talk respectfully, about something that matters to both the government, the teachers’ union, classroom teachers, and students.”
“We have improved investment in classroom composition, which was an absolute priority for me to make sure there is more teaching support in classroom for kids. We found a way to do that without raising taxes, we found a way to do it without cutting services, we found a way to do it without going into deficit.”
The government leaders deferred any revelation of the agreement’s details to another press conference held later in the afternoon by BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker.
The BCTF executive committee met earlier in the day and agreed to recommend that its membership of 40,000 teachers vote ‘Yes’ to ratify the agreement in a vote on Thursday. The results will be announced later that evening.
A ‘Yes’ vote is needed to end the strike and reopen schools next week, as early as Monday.
“It was a tough series of negotiations, but there were many meaningful achievements for both teachers and students,” says Iker.
This includes the following:
- several hundred new teaching positions each year as a result of an annual education fund
- a mutually process to address any future court decision
- the removal of the contentious article E80 on class size, composition and staffing levels
- a significant grievance fund for one-time payment to members and improvements in elementary preparation time
- improvements to salary and extended health and dental benefits
The wage hikes are believed to be 7.25 per cent over six years, although he would not confirm at this time. Iker also says there were “no concessions” on the BCTF’s part and he hopes to develop a “better relationship” with the provincial government.
An agreement was reached at 3:50 a.m. today after a marathon 16 hour long negotiation meeting that began Monday morning.
Rotating strikes across the province began on Monday, May 26 while the full-scale strike began on Tuesday, June 17, ending the previous school year two weeks early.
The strike is now in its third week of the new school year. By the end of this week, students will have lost more than a month of classroom time between both school years due to the labour dispute.
Feature Image: Teacher via Shutterstock