A proposal from the province toward reaching a 10-year education agreement with public school teachers hasn’t been well received by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).
Premier Christy Clark announced it as a proposed framework for labour peace with teachers, but Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Association (CCTA) president Joan Erb says it isn’t the olive branch it appears to be.
“What a brilliant political move for Clark to do that … because if you don’t read between the lines, it looks like this is a really good deal for teachers.
“There are no specifics as to what our rights would be. They say we’ll be a part of the education council on policy; well, will we be there with a vote, or will we be there with a voice?”
The timing of the framework’s release also “smells a little too fishy for my comfort,” Erb adds.
The BCTF voted to ratify an agreement it had worked on together with the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) the day before the 10-year contract plan was announced.
“In that [government plan], there’s next to no mention of BCPSEA.”
The other agreement ratified by both BCTF and BCPSEA is “very simple” in its own bargaining structure, Erb adds, and moves “a lot of things” from the provincial table to the local table.
“It’s a mutually agreed-to framework. The last time when we went to the bargaining table, there was no agreement. So we had about 78 sessions with absolutely nothing being resolved.”
The CCTA president says one “good thing” included in the framework is it allows for professional mediators and conciliators to help resolve bargaining impasses.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says A Framework For Long Term Stability In Education works toward a 10-year agreement in a new approach from the established model of bargaining (in five-year contracts).
“It’s a working document, an agreement that would provide required stability and allow all parties in education to focus on the priority of ensuring the education system meets the needs of students.”
Barnett she says it isn’t so much an olive branch as it is a fresh start with a new process.
“[It’s] looking forward to try and ensure stability, particularly for students, [but also] for teachers, for parents, and for peace in the workplace.
There needs to be “a lot of discussion” in working through the bargaining framework document, she adds.
“Any attempt to try to achieve this success, I think is a good move forward.”
Barnett explains government documentation indicates teachers salaries went up 1.8 per cent in the last 10 years, while other public sector salaries received two per cent.
“This shows that increases over the past decade for teachers have not been significantly out of step. It also suggests that had many teachers been indexed in this way over the past decade, they would have seen slightly higher compensation increases.”
Erb notes the new framework does propose indexing teacher’s salaries to their public-sector colleagues, but this also means teachers won’t negotiate their own salaries.
She says inflation alone is at two per cent, and teachers could do better in face-to-face negotiations than having salaries frozen in a 10-year agreement.
By not involving BCPSEA, she thinks Clark is trying to get teachers on board with her labour plan, and will then impose an agreement on them, Erb explains.
“It’s just another political ploy for her to make us teachers look bad again.”