Premier Christy Clark remains convinced a 10-year contract for B.C. teachers is possible, and unveiled details of the government's plan Thursday in Vancouver.
Public school teacher salary increases would be indexed to an average of what public sector unions receive, teachers would be given a formal role in education policy decisions, and would help determine how a $100 million priority education investment fund would be spent in the third year of the agreement.
All such agreements are contingent on a 10-year settlement being achieved.
Clark's proposal also sets out changes to teacher bargaining structures to allow a professional mediator and conciliators agreeable to both sides to help resolve bargaining disputes. The government would introduce structured timelines and would provide more transparency on the costs and implications of bargaining items.
Teachers would retain the right to strike and the B.C. Teachers Federation would negotiate directly with the government on provincial contract items.
"The goal of a 10-year agreement is simple and ambitious - give Grade 2 students a chance to go their entire school career without a disruption," said Clark. "Imagine the opportunities for students, parents and teachers in the classroom knowing classrooms would always be open. We need to work closely with teachers on our shared goal of improving B.C.'s education system, and we're prepared to make some fundamental changes that put students first. This isn't about the adults - it's about what's best for students."
The proposed framework is the product of consultations and submissions from education stakeholders, including teachers, school board trustees, principals, superintendents and parent advisory councils.
The 10-year-proposal reflects priorities identified by B.C. Public School Trustees' Association, which has been pressuring the government to revisit its essential services designation. The proposed new Education Policy Council to advise government on education policy priorities would include trustees, the BCTF and government representatives. Trustees have requested transparent bargaining timelines to resolve labour disputes, as recommended in reports submitted by mediators Don Wright (2004) and Vince Ready (2007).
Education Minister Don McRae is convinced a 10-year deal is possible.
"As a teacher and as minister, I know how beneficial it is for teachers to have a voice in the future of education," said McRae on Thursday. "Through this framework, we can strengthen that voice in matters such as funding and policy decisions. With a ten-year agreement, we can move past the strife and disruption of the past and focus on what matters most -- working together for students and families across British Columbia."
With contract talks tentatively set to begin on Feb. 4, the BCTF and the province already have a framework agreement in place to select a facilitator to try to avoid the stalemate situation that led to last year's province-wide teachers strike. The two sides have until Jan. 31 to accept or reject the proposal, which also specifies which contract items will be bargaining provincially and which will be dealt with locally by school boards. Contract proposals are to be submitted by March 1.