Following months of bargaining that ended with full strike action undertaken by educators in the province, the BC Teachers’ Federation is now calling on Premier Christy Clark to agree to mediation.
“BC teachers have put forward a fair and reasonable framework for a deal that would see improved learning conditions for students on the first school day in September,” says BCTF President Jim Iker
“However, two more days of bargaining have gone by with no progress or counter offers from government and BCPSEA. At this point, the best way to get that deal that works for BC’s public education system is through mediation. Christy Clark should say yes to mediation today.”
Iker says that a facilitator has been part of the bargaining process since it started in February 2013, but he now feels the “government needs more pressure to move off their entrenched positions.”
“BC teachers have moved significantly at the bargaining table to bring the two sides closer together, but we have not seen similar efforts from Christy Clark’s government,” says Iker. “If Christy Clark agrees to mediation and allows government negotiators to come enter that process with a more open mind, we can get a deal.”
British Columbia's Education Minister Peter Fassbender did not immediately commit to or reject a call from the BCTF to bring in a mediator to resolve the dispute.
He says the province also does not want the strike to drag on into the summer or the fall semester.
But Fassbender says the two parties are not even close to reaching a deal, and labelled the latest offer from the teachers' union as "unrealistic".
Federation president Jim Iker says the union's offer is fair and accuses the government of stonewalling the talks.
“Our proposals are fair,” says Iker. “We have been dealing with a government that has a record of bargaining in bad faith and imposing unconstitutional legislation. Evidence from the government’s own officials presented in BC Supreme Court shows the government has stripped $275 million per year from BC’s public education system. That means an entire generation of BC kids have been short-changed.
Teachers have been on the picket lines since Tuesday, following three weeks of rotating job action.
The BCTF says their 'framework for settlement' currently on the table is based on five key points:
- A five-year term
- A 8 per cent salary increase plus signing bonus
- No concessions
- A $225 million annual workload fund to address issues of class size, class composition and staffing ratios as an interim measure while both parties await the next court ruling
- A $225 million retroactive grievances fund, over the life of the collective agreement, as a resolution to Justice Griffin’s BC Supreme Court decision that retroactively restored the stripped language from 2002. This fund would be used to address other working conditions like preparation time and TTOC compensation improvements, as well as modest improvements to health benefits.
~With files from The Canadian Press