VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – BC’s 40,000 public school teachers have voted to accept a tentative agreement reached this week after a year-long labour dispute.
The vote comes after a school year that has been marred by a three-day walk out and teachers’ decision to withdraw a list of voluntary duties.
“I doubt you could find a single teacher in BC who is happy with this agreement because it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers,” says Susan Lambert, President of the BC Teachers’ Federation. “It doesn’t address class size and composition nor does it provide a fair and reasonable salary increase for our members, who have fallen far behind teachers in other parts of Canada.”
Lambert noted that the BCTF was able to get modest improvements in terms of most teachers’ benefits, which were extremely outdated, and in some leave provisions.
“However, the most significant achievement is that that we succeeded in getting government take its concession demands off the table,” she believes.
“Throughout 80 bargaining sessions, government refused to budge from net zero and persisted in demanding the elimination of hard-won labour rights and fair process provisions around post and fill, and transfer and recall,” Lambert adds. “With this settlement we have forced government off its punitive agenda.”
“This year alone, we are facing a $100 million funding shortfall due to inflationary pressures, so we know there will be further cuts to programs and services in schools come September,” she says. “BC teachers are proud of our role in building one of the finest public education systems in the world. We will continue to advocate for our students and our schools.”
The BCTF will also seek redress in the courts for past constitutional violations and to challenge Bill 22, which ordered an end to the teachers’ job action and compelled a mediation process under threat of harsh fines.
Mike McEvoy, President of the BC School Trustees Association, is pleased with the deal and the outcome of the vote.
“The good news is, is what this does do is put us on a very positive footing for September and gives parents an insurance that the system will be stable. The focus will be kids learning starting in September and throughout the coming school year,” he believes.
The trustees still have to vote on the agreement board-by-board and McEvoy expects that to happen early next week.
Earlier this week, the teachers’ union and their employer reached a tentative agreement for the province. The union had recommended teachers vote in favour of the agreement.
The province’s teachers spent much of the past year refusing to perform certain administrative tasks such as filling out report cards and were given permission by the labour board to stage a three-day walkout in March.
The province introduced back-to-work legislation to end the dispute and send the contract talks to mediation.