Teachers, province end stalemate

BCTF job action suspended after one-year agreement is reached with the Government

With the closure of school for another year came the end of a 10-month job action by teachers, as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation voted last week to accept an agreement hammered out with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

The agreement should restore traditional teachers duties in North Island Schools for the coming school year, including filling out report cards and supervising extracurricular activites after regular school hours.

“Those activities have always been voluntary,” said Fred Robertson, president of Vancouver Island Teachers North (VINTA). “But that action is suspended as of June 20.”

The agreement forestalled potential legislation by the Provincial government, and came with modest gains in teachers’ benefits packages. But the government maintained its “net zero” mandate and teachers came away without changes to classroom size and composition, or pay raises.

“There is relief that this has concluded and government hasn’t succeeded in stripping anything out of our collective agreement,” Robertson said. “But we’ve been forced into it by a government that’s been using the trigger of legislation all along.”

The BCTF reported just 52 per cent of teachers voted on the agreement, with 75 per cent of those voting in favour.

“I doubt you could find a single teacher in B.C. who is happy with this agreement because it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers,” BCTF president Susan Lambert said. “It doesn’t address class size and composition nor does it provide a fair and reasonable salary increase for our members, who have fallen far behind teachers in other parts of Canada.”

The BCPSEA was more enthusiastic about the agreement, with 85 per cent of members voting and 100 per cent of the ballots in favour. School District 85’s board of trustees convened a special meeting Friday to cast its ballots, and the province-wide results were announced Wednesday by BCPSEA chair Melanie Joy.

“Boards of education are pleased that we have been able to achieve agreements with all of our unionized staff in these challenging times,” Joy said. “We hope that this agreement and the processes established under the agreement will contribute to a growing dialogue between the BCTF and ourselves, so that we can continue to work productively do deal with issues related to teachers’ terms and conditions of employment.”