Students and parents can now enter their summer vacation knowing that school will be back to normal come September, at least for another year.
The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has reached an agreement with the BC Public School Employers’ Association, government’s bargaining agent.
“We truly hope the ratification occurs and that we can move forward to business as usual,” said Rob Dennis, assistant superintendent for School District 59.
While local school administrators and parents may be pleased that next year will likely be strike free, some are concerned that not all of the issues have been resolved.
“This 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,” said Premier Christy Clark.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge the work of mediator Dr. Charles Jago and Education Minister George Abbott in reaching a fair deal that falls under our net zero mandate, as the government remains committed to balancing the budget.”
This tentative agreement comes on the heels of more than a year of contract negotiations, including a three-day strike earlier this year. Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011.
“After a long and difficult round of negotiations, we were compelled into this process under threat of huge fines and further punitive legislation,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
“We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government (to) take its concession demands off the table.”
Lambert said the agreement still leaves important matters unresolved, such as class size and composition; wage disparity with other provinces and staffing ratios for specialist teachers.
“We’ve concluded this agreement in order to prevent government from imposing a contract that would further erode teachers’ hard-won rights and do more harm to students’ learning conditions,” said Lambert.
This agreement was achieved with mediator Dr. Charles Jago.
“I am very pleased that I was able to assist the parties in coming to a resolution of this dispute,” said Jago.
“I am also optimistic this agreement carries the prospect of a much more positive start to the next school year.”
Teachers will vote on this agreement between June 27 and 29, the results of which will be announced in the evening of June 29.
School District 60 Superintendent Larry Espe said the information is “barebones” until the agreement is ratified.
Dennis said that he is “cautiously optimistic.”
Espe was a little bit more certain.
“We’re anticipating that (the agreement) will happen,” said Espe. “An agreement of any kind is a starting point.”
He said, as a district, they believe it’s “good news.”
“I think the opinions out there are everything from relief to some disappointment, so it depends on which side you’re on, but the bottom line is… I think the folks that we’ve had a chance to talk to, at least there’s an agreement,” he continued.
Dennis noted that, as a district, the agreement means that they are starting off a new school year in September “without job action.”
“There will be a tremendous amount more stability in the system, and probably a lot more services to students,” said Dennis. “I know that teachers, for the most part, conducted their responsibilities as usual, but in some cases, they simply could not on direction of their union.”
Negotiations, should this contract be ratified, will not reopen until March 2013.
“It’s just an opinion, but I think there’s some dissatisfaction, so I’m sure there will be efforts to reopen it and renegotiate some things,” said Espe.
This sentiment was echoed by Lambert.
She said, “We are required to open negotiations again in just eight months, and we will once again be looking for fair treatment at the bargaining table and long awaited improvements for our members and our students.”