VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The BC government is moving to fix its dysfunctional bargaining relationship with the province’s public school teachers.

Premier Christy Clark announced a review of the process with the goal of making legislative changes next spring, at the same time the teachers’ contract expires.

Clark has appointed Education Minister Don McRae to conduct consultations and review reports with the goal of long-term labour stability and improving the relationship between the union and government.

The teachers union says they welcome the news of fixing the bargaining process but when asked about a long-term labour deal, BC Teachers’ Federation President Susan Lambert says she doesn’t know why the premier is bringing up a 10-year contract with this announcement.

“The structure of bargaining really has nothing to do with the content of a deal that is put to the table, so I’m kind of mystified that there would be notion of a ten year deal but isn’t that part of bargaining not part of structure?” Lambert asks.

Clark says she believes changes can be made to make the system better if everyone is willing to co-operate and keep an open mind.

“We’ve been promised consultation before and that has ended up with punitive legislation. So we are wary, we hope this process is one with integrity, we hope this process honours and respects the voice of teachers,” says Lambert.

The BCTF has had a fractious relationship with the government for decades and spent most of the last school year in job action before reluctantly agreeing to a new one-year contract.

Trustees weigh in on BC’s plan to fix broken relationship

President of the BC School Trustees Association Michael McEvoy says it’s about time the government plans to improve the bargaining process with teachers.

“It’s been 20 years now since we’ve had the current structure in place. I think there’s been a lot of concern about how it’s worked, and particularly how it’s worked for students across British Columbia,” says McEvoy. “We’ve had way too many labour disputes between our teachers, government ,and trustees over the past 20 years and I don’t think that’s been very good for public education.”

He says trustees have been pushing for this for some time.

“Trustees have been out in front of this issue for some number of months, well before government initiated this action. Trustees have had their own review process in place. Trustees work with government in terms of bargaining and so we think it’s time that this review is taking place,” notes McEvoy.

When asked about the premier’s goal of a 10 year contract with teachers, he says that might be too ambitious.

“I don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves here. Ten years is a goal. I think what the premier is getting at here is long term stability. To me, whether it’s three, five, six years, or whatever the number, I think we’re looking for is a mature, stable, solid relationship  between government, trustees and teachers.”

McEvoy is meeting with the Education Ministry in the next few days to talk about the plan.