Education Minister George Abbott’s intention to impose a contract on teachers is disappointing to the Nanaimo teachers’ union.
Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said he’s worried that a legislated contract will remove rights from collective agreements.
“I was kind of expecting that we were going to get to this point,” said DeGear. “They’ve been pretty clear on their desire for a legislated solution.”
The decision comes after a report from Trevor Hughes, assistant deputy minister for industrial relations, stated it is unlikely the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association will come to a negotiated settlement. The two sides have bargained for almost a year.
The Hughes report talks about the province’s “net zero” mandate (no net increase in total compensation) being a major obstacle to a voluntary settlement between the two parties, but DeGear said BCPSEA has never come to the table with net zero – he describes the association’s proposals as “sub zero”.
“All the BCPSEA proposals talked about significant strips to our contracts,” he said. “Zero has never been on the table. It’s about taking away rights in the collective agreement.”
A full-scale strike is one option being discussed if the provincial legislation does strip teacher contracts, said DeGear, but the union will look at the legislation and then go to members to see what they want to do.
“I’ve gotten pretty clearly if our contract is reduced or stripped, [members] want the strongest possible reaction to that,” he said. “Definitely a full walkout is on the table, but it’s one of several options out there.”
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said he’s also disappointed the two parties failed to come to a voluntary settlement.
“When negotiations fail, you’re left with unresolved issues that can create bitterness over the years,” he said. “I’m hoping that through time and through good discussions, we’ll get back to working together constructively. I hope whatever legislation is enacted is not injurious or punitive.”
The BCTF is calling for alternatives to an imposed contract, such as mediation or arbitration.