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Teachers not thrilled with government's 10-year proposal
Noting there is a provincial election looming, the head of the Kamloops board of education said she welcomes any attempt to bring labour peace with the province's teachers.
Denise Harper said a proposal that would see changes to the education system and a 10-year agreement with public-school teachers would be welcome — if it could guarantee no more interruptions in the classroom.
For Jason Karpuk, president of the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers' Association, there is nothing in the proposal that he views as an incentive for teachers.
Harper said she would also welcome the stronger voice the proposal appears to include for the B.C. School Trustees Association, giving it a more direct voice not only at the bargaining table, but in a new $100-million Priority Education Investment Fund.
Now, the voice of trustees in negotiations must come through the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA).
In announcing the proposal, Premier Christy Clark said the goal of a 10-year agreement would be to ensure students can "go their entire school career without a disruption."
The proposal offers the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) a formal role in education-police decisions, a voice in the investment fund, indexing teacher salaries to increases in the province's public sector and a structured process to use mediators and conciliators to resolve bargaining impasses.
Karpuk said the plan flies in the face of a court ruling returning the right to bargain class size to teachers.
He said his colleagues in Kamloops are also angry they would lose the right to bargain their salaries.
"They would be indexed to what others negotiate," he said. "The teachers in the classroom are insulted by it."
Labour interruptions "are very disruptive to working families," Harper said, "and anything that could guarantee labour peace would be welcome because children do suffer when there are disruptions.
"However, having said that, I am aware there is an election coming [May 14], so I have to ask myself if this is an honest try" by the government to introduce a viable agreement with teachers.
Karpuk questioned the timing of the announcement, noting it occurred just before the BCTF was to meet with the BCPSEA to discuss a bargaining framework the two sides had already agreed could be a starting point to addressing the history of bargaining conflict between the two sides.
Losing the right to bargain class sizes is a serious issue, Karpuk said, noting the average class size in Kamloops ranges between 24 and 28 students.
Teachers can accept more students if they agree to it but, Karpuk said, if two students were taken out of all large classes, it would create new classes, giving work to teachers and enabling more one-on-one instruction time in schools — all a benefit to students.