Teachers slam proposed 10-year deal

The BC government's proposed path to a 10-year contract with teachers is a pre-election political document that aims to strip educators of their bargaining rights as they prepare to negotiate a new deal, says the head of the teachers' union.

"This is not good for students, it is not good for teachers," Susan Lambert said Thursday after Premier Christy Clark announced the proposal as a way to stop labour acrimony from disrupting the education system.

"I'm very upset that Christy Clark would try to use teachers, teaching and the public education system, and students, as a political football," Lambert said.

The proposal includes the creation of a policy council made up of the government, school trustees and the teachers' union to discuss issues that have historically bogged down negotiations, the government said.

But Lambert said teachers will not give up bargaining for hard-fought rights such as class size, noting a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that gave teachers victory over that issue after a 10-year legal battle.

"It's ludicrous on the face of it, and it's quite sad that the government would use rhetoric of reconciliation and re-establishing respectful relationships and yet quite aggressively and relentlessly try to deny teachers their constitutionally guaranteed right to bargain working conditions," she said.

Clark said the 10-year deal would prevent labour acrimony from spilling into classrooms, adding a Grade 2 student could graduate from high school without the disruptions that have plagued public education in the province for decades.

The BC Teachers Federation and the province have waged a fight over various issues including wages, class size and education being deemed an essential service in 2001, meaning teachers could not go on strike.

The government also imposed two back-to-back contracts that added fuel to an already tense relationship between the two sides, prompting teachers to mount an illegal walkout in 2005.

Labour woes that lasted the entire school year starting in September 2011 meant teachers refused to write report cards, supervise students or take part in extra-curricular activities before a one-year contract was reached. It's set to expire at the end of June.

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