BC teachers call for mediation, NDP supports the call

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Peter Fassbender says BCTF’s latest demands have moved them further away from the affordability zone for public sector settlements.

Victoria/Vancouver: The BC Teachers’ Federation has called 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,” BCTF President Jim Iker said today. “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.”

The BCTF’s framework for settlement that is currently on the table is based on five key points: 

  • a five-year term
  • a reasonable 8% 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.

Earlier in the week Peter Fassbender had said that BCTF should put all their cards on the table. He has said, “While they’ve moved on their wage demands, they have not provided clear answers on what other cost items are still on the table. After 16 months, the BCTF is still pushing proposals that literally have blanks in them where there should be dollar figures. Students have been turned away from their classrooms and teachers are losing income. The BCTF owes it to everyone to fill in those blanks, table their full set of demands, and respond to the comprehensive settlement offer that BCPSEA has put on the table.”

Education Minister Peter Fassbender   in a statement on the status of bargaining with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has said, “On Sunday, the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) tabled an affordable, creative and comprehensive package to end the stalemate, get kids back in school and create long-term stability for parents, student and teachers.

“That comprehensive offer for settlement included the special $1,200 signing bonus for a deal by June 30, an improved wage offer, guaranteed funding for class composition, and bridging provisions to address the court case.

“The comprehensive package is fully in line with the wage increases and affordable agreements already reached by nearly 150,000 public sector workers.  It was not tabled lightly. It was made clear to the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) that we put our best possible offer on the table and it was aimed at concluding this round of bargaining.

“On Wednesday, the BCTF presented their full set of demands. They filled in their blanks and clarified their positions. And instead of moving us closer, their latest demands moved them further away from the affordability zone for public sector settlements.

“Their wage and benefit demands alone are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.

“I’m disappointed. We are now further away from an agreement than we were a week ago. We want to give teachers a raise but the BCTF leadership is making that virtually impossible. “I want to be clear that BCPSEA is not walking away from the table and we remain committed to reaching an agreement by June 30. Nor is government interested in legislating a contract.

NDP says it is very disappointing that the B.C. Liberals have failed to find the means to a fair settlement after raising expectations that we would get a deal done over the weekend. Students, parents and teachers deserve better than what they’ve been getting from the B.C. Liberals for the past 12 years.

“Premier Clark has no credibility on public education with teachers or parents. For 12 years this government has made B.C. classrooms harder to learn in and harder to teach in.”

“Today we heard from the education minister that despite months at the bargaining table, the B.C. Liberal government is not only unable to find a fair settlement with teachers, but it has tabled what is essentially its final position and is now content to have students out of classrooms for “quite a while.”

“Moreover, the Clark government remains fixated on trying to persuade the public that this negotiation is about teacher pay, when it is clear to everyone else that what government has to do is fix classroom size and composition in the interests of all students and parents.

“Premier Clark broke her promise last weekend that her team would negotiate 24/7 towards a fair settlement. Students and parents can’t afford for her to fail again. That’s why New Democrats fully support the call for an independent mediator to step in and help provide both parties with the means to move forward and reach an agreement that puts B.C. kids back in school.It’s time for an independent mediator to step in, take the public politics out of this dispute, and help B.C. teachers finally reach a fair and sustainable settlement,” said NDP leader John Horgan and education critic Rob Fleming in a press statement.

In a telephonic interview with Asian Journal, Rob Fleming said that, “BC Liberals have to bridge differences with the teachers; they should settle the class size and composition issue with the teachers at the earliest.” He went on to add that, “this government has a horrible public education track record and cannot be trusted but unfortunately they are in charge and as the opposition we have been demanding the resolution of this issue both inside the house and outside.”  This government is capable of any kind of cynicism and there is a possibility that they may think that nobody cares now. We were hopeful of a deal over the last weekend, but the government has disappointed once again.”