Rocky start to the school year? Negotiations continue between teachers, province
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:37PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 13, 2019 6:48PM PDT
When the BC NDP took power two years ago there was hope the union-friendly party would have a sunnier relationship with the BC Teachers’ Federation.
Now, parents may need to brace for what could be a rocky start to the next school year.
Negotiations between the BCTF and the employer began in February of this year. At the end of June, the current contract expired, so in July, a mediator was assigned to talks by the Labour Relations Board and talks continue next week.
“We have eight days of negotiations booked in August, and that's plenty of time to get a deal,” said BCTF president Teri Mooring.
Key issues at the bargaining table include class size and composition. The teachers won a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that re-instated the ability to negotiate on class size and composition. The union also insists wages in B.C. are falling behind other jurisdictions and need to be increased to help recruit and retain teachers.
"You know it takes both sides and teachers need a good deal and not just any deal, and we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Mooring.
The NDP government ponied up millions to hire new teachers to comply with the court’s decision, and has poured millions of dollars into the school system, including to seismically upgrade schools.
The Ministry of Education issued a statement, reading in part: “We are focused on improving services and putting the success of our students at the centre of all we do. Government has invested $1 billion more in education, including funding almost 4,000 new teachers and 1,000 new education assistants.”
The ministry also noted a media blackout is in effect during mediation.
Before any potential strike – members of the union would have to vote in favour of that action. Other options, like work to rule may be on the table. Mooring won’t comment on that, saying it’s simply too soon to pre-judge the outcome of upcoming talks.
In 2014, a strike also impacted classrooms in June and the start of the school year, leaving many parents scrambling to find child care.
Asked if she remembered that strike, Sonam Manakatahla, a parent of three replied, “Yes…it was horrible, we had to take time off work.”
Still she says she’s supportive of the work teachers do, adding she hoped the teachers get a better deal.