VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The provincial government says a tentative agreement has been reached between the BC Public School Employers’ Association and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation.

Education Minister George Abbott says under mediator Dr. Charles Jago’s guidance, the parties worked extremely hard and made progress on many important issues.
Abbott explains the terms of the agreement runs until June 30, 2013, “and sets out improved language to manage leave provisions, and is consistent with government’s net zero mandate. In addition, the parties agreed to further discuss and seek mutually agreeable improvements on key policy issues.”

“Hopefully, we have a better base on which to form conclusions about whether the province is in a position to do any greater sharing beyond cooperative gains,” adds Abbott, in regards to wage increases in the next contract.

BCTF recommends ratification

“After a long and difficult round of negotiations, we were compelled into this process under threat of huge fines and further punitive legislation,” says President Susan Lambert.

She’s relieved by the agreement, as it prevents teachers from being legislated back to work. “But that said, I have to say that none of this will address the critical issues for teachers, which are class size, class composition, and the loss of non-enrolling specialist teachers.”

While Lambert recommends ratification, her opinion on the government hasn’t changed. “I think this government believes that there are private alternative solutions to public education… and they see public education as a drain on the public purse rather than as a benefit.”

“We are required to open negotiations again in just eight months, and we will once again be looking for fair treatment at the bargaining table and long awaited improvements for our members and our students,” she adds.

Key player in the talks wrapping up has some words of advice

Abbott may not have the same title next year but still hopes for change.

“Regardless of who is elected in 2013, I do think the BCTF needs to sit down and try to build that mature, constructive relationship that has proven elusive for so long,” he says.

Abbott adds without such a relationship, parents and teachers suffer, which trumps politics.

Meanwhile Premier Christy Clark is praising the BCTF, her government, and mediator Charles Jago. “We achieved this in the context of a zero-zero mandate that protects taxpayers.”

She says it fits in with the balanced budget plan.

The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is pleased both sides have hammered out a tentative agreement.

Director Terry Berting says no one was happy when teachers walked away from extracurricular activities. “It was a very difficult year, from an extracurricular point of view. But with that hopefully settled, let’s get back to work.”

Berting says the tentative contract is a “great way” to start the summer vacation.

Teachers across the province will cast their ballots over the next three days; the results of the ratification vote is expected Friday night, the last day of the school year.