Teachers in the province are in the process of ratifying an agreement that was reached with the government earlier this week after a long and difficult round of negotiations and results are expected tonight.
Despite job action from September to March, a three-day full-scale walkout, withdrawal of extra-curricular activities and numerous actions before the Labour Relations Board the tentative agreement provides teachers with only a few of their demands.
Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association (MATA) president Deb Morran expressed disappointment in the deal she said has no gains for the classroom.
“It’s not great. It doesn’t address class size and composition and reduced services to kids … particularly those with special needs,” she commented and added, “The agreement can be seen as the lesser of two evils, because we have avoided one being imposed by the government but it no where near addresses concerns we took to the bargaining table.”
Morran admitted she was surprised both sides were able to reach an agreement and conceded their battle with the provincial government is far from over.
“It does provide a sense of stability going into September, but it is short term because the contract will be up and we will be bargaining in the spring of 2013,” she stated.
Morran stated that while the agreement is encouraging, teachers are still frustrated.
“They know that going into September they are facing challenges with larger classes and increased needs. There is that sense of nothing is in place to help the demands that they are going to face in the fall,” she said.
Morran said the agreement provides some modest improvements in terms of teachers’ benefits, which were extremely outdated, and in some leave provisions but that is about all there is to celebrate in the deal.
“I think teachers in this district specifically will be pleased to see improvements to our benefit package. I have not seen improvements to benefits since the 1980s. We have been dealing with the same level of coverage that was signed off in the ‘80s but that is the only positive that I can relay to my members,” Morran said.
BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) President Susan Lambert said they will continue to challenge Bill 22 and assert teachers’ labour rights and have filed notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court regarding Bill 22.
Minister of Education George Abbott said the tentative agreement means parents and students can enjoy the summer break and know that when school resumes in the fall there will be certainty in the classroom, with the focus being on the children.
Abbott will be receiving a letter from the board of education in School District 69 (Qualicum) informing him about the great lengths all parties went to in this district to come up with a balanced budget.
At the regular board meeting June 26 the board passed a motion approving a joint letter from board chair Lynette Kershaw, MATA, CUPE and the president of the DPAC describing the lengthy process involved in coming up with a budget in the wake of cuts to education funding.
Morran said the minister needs to know what programs this district had to cut and how difficult the process was.
“There are misconceptions that boards had an easy time with their budgets.
“We were only able to achieve a balanced budget by doing the worst damage to classrooms with agreement from all parties. MATA had to sign the calendar change. It was a meeting of the minds.
“We tried to keep cuts away from classroom but it wasn’t an easy task,” she said.
She said they should send a letter to the minister every year and have everyone sign on.