With negotiations stalled after 11 months of fruitless meetings and five months of strike action, the bargaining agent for B.C. school districts has concluded there is no chance for a negotiated settlement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
And that leaves the president of the Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association wondering where the focus during negotiations might be.
“Where are the priorities?,” said Fred Robertson.
“Negotiations are still on the table and we are hoping to negotiate the settlement (but) the priorities should be the children and their education and providing the resources needed.”
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association presented its latest offer as talks with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation resumed late last month.
BCPSEA issued a statement listing new proposals for teacher leave and a two-year contract term, but expectations of progress on major issues have disappeared.
“It has become evident, however, that any number of presentations, explanations or meetings will not help the parties reach a new agreement,” the statement says.
BCTF president Susan Lambert described the latest employer proposal as “baby steps” toward a settlement.
BCPSEA was more pessimistic.
When the latest offer was tabled Wednesday, the union’s response at the bargaining table continued the BCTF’s rejection of the government’s two-year “net zero” mandate on wages.
BCPSEA says a union representative also emphasized “characterization of all BCPSEA proposals as ‘contract stripping’” and “the need to ‘go back to your master’ and get a new mandate (in all areas of our package).”
Education Minister George Abbott has repeatedly said there will be no new mandate, but declined to put a deadline on the talks, which will reach the one-year mark in March.
“The mandate doesn’t change,” said Robertson, who said he wants to see the school districts to “negotiate don’t legislate.”
A five-year contract with the BCTF, the first ever negotiated with the province, expired in June 2011.
Teachers began the school year last September by refusing report cards, recess and lunch hour supervision and other duties deemed non-essential.
—with files from Desiree Conway