The BC Teachers Federation executive committee is recommending a ratification vote that could end the province-wide teachers’ dispute, after a tentative agreement was reached Tuesday night.
After several weeks of negotiations between the 41,000 teachers in the BCTF and the BC Public School Employers Association, instigated by mediator Charles Jago, Tuesday’s agreement could bring an end to a troubling year of disruption for BC public schools.
Ratification voting will take place over the next three days.
“The parties apparently have reached a deal,” said Prince George District Teachers Association president Mat Pearce.
“An agreement reached between the parties is certainly preferable to a legislated contract and that is a positive.
“We will have a vote and make sure our members come out and vote before school breaks for the holidays.
“We want the members to have a say in what the conditions of employment are.”
The agreement includes:
A benefits plan that improves benefits for 75 per cent of teachers with a commitment of $2.6 million from the government for implementation. It will give union locals the choice whether to opt in to the program;
Teachers will receive up to five days of bereavement leave with an expanded definition of family for most members;
A renewed recruitment and retention allowance;
Up to three days of unpaid discretionary leave;
Compassionate care of up to eight weeks of paid leave, which includes standard employment insurance benefits plus a top-up;
Family responsibility leave of up to five unpaid days;
Improvements to union leaves for teachers on call [substitutes] and for union officers in amalgamated districts;
Employer’s concessions regarding seniority and suitability are off the table as bargaining issues;
A letter of understanding that moves layoff and recall issues to local bargaining and an agreement on standardized teacher evaluation language.
“It’s very much a surprise,” said Pearce.
“The standardized benefits package around the province is something we’ve never had and both parties have wanted, but have never reached agreement on. That was the first one that kind of opened it up and the other ones flowed from there. Dr. Jago has done some good work here.
“I knew as of Monday morning they had agreements on everything except the evaluations on professional growth and Dr. Jago extended his deadline to include [Monday and Tuesday] and I guess there must have been a breakthrough during that time.”
There has been just one negotiated contract since the province adopted province-wide bargaining with teachers in 1996.
“This wasn’t a collective bargaining process,”said Pearce.
“It was a forced mediation process and it’s good the parties have found some common ground, but it’s certainly not collective bargaining and we will still be going to court [December 3-6] to challenge the imposition of this process.
“One of the big important things to us was the split of issues and what should be bargained provincially and locally, and we reached an agreement on that. A number of the big things that were part of Bill 22 were moved to local issues, language around layoffs and recall and hiring issues.”
Assuming members ratify a new deal, Pearce said teachers will no longer hold back on participation in extracurricular activities, and it will be back to business as usual in B.C. schools, at least for the term of the contract, which would expire June 30, 2013.
“It’s been an extremely difficult year for everybody in the education community - that’s teachers, principals, parents, students and trustees - everyone has been put through the wringer,” said Pearce.