B.C. teachers expect contract to expire without new deal

B.C. teachers don’t expect a new deal with the province by the time their contract expires at the end of June, says Jason Gammon.

“What we’ve been hearing from [the B.C. Teachers’ Federation] is that they’re at a stalemate,” said Gammon, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, a BCTF local. “They’re not making a lot of progress.”

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Despite that, bargaining is completed in the Greater Victoria School District, said Gammon, who represents just over 2,000 teachers.

“But it’s much different because it’s non-cost items,” he said. “Any cost items go to the provincial table.”

The local agreement is still subject to ratification, Gammon said.

“Then it’s a long wait to meld the two, the local and the provincial agreements together.”

Gammon said there will be no job action involving teachers when the 2019-20 school year starts in September.

Bargaining with the BCTF is ongoing, Alan Chell, chairman of the board of directors for the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association, said in a statement.

“BCPSEA and the BCTF have a full set of bargaining sessions scheduled through to the end of June,” he said. “So there is still time to make significant progress before the end of the month if there is a will to have the detailed discussions and find solutions to address the needs of both parties to the agreement — public boards of education and public school teachers.”

He said that in the BCPSEA’s view “negotiations are not proceeding at the pace they should be.”

The two parties have been at the bargaining table for over 50 days.

“While BCPSEA and the BCTF may not agree on the proposals that each of the parties has tabled, that is a normal part of bargaining and the place to have those discussions and make progress is at the bargaining table,” Chell said.

Like other locals, Gammon said the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association will be steadfast in maintaining the current provisions for class size and composition in its contract.

“I think more than 50 per cent of the province, the provincial unions’ membership, has good [contract] language so there’s no way they’re going to ratify a deal that takes that away. It’s not going to happen.

“Our class size and composition language helps teachers but it also benefits students.”

Gammon said district teachers are also hoping for a wage lift, given that B.C. teachers are the lowest paid in Canada’s five westernmost provinces.

More than 700 Victoria teachers wrote letters to the Ministry of Education calling for action at the bargaining table. The letters were delivered to Education Minister Rob Fleming’s office last week.

Gammon said bargaining will be among the topics when the BCTF meets in late August in Kamloops for a conference.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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