Teachers voting on stand-pat deal

Teachers voted this week on the proposed settlement, which runs until June 30, 2013.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation executive recommended acceptance of an agreement reached with school district negotiators that extends most of the terms of the contract that expired a year ago.

Teachers voted this week on the proposed settlement, which runs until June 30, 2013. In all, 21,044 teachers voted, a turnout rate of 52 per cent, and 75 per cent voted to ratify the latest agreement-in-committee reached on Tuesday, June 26.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, representing B.C.’s 60 school districts, will hold a vote for trustees next week.

The agreement puts off a bitter dispute over government changes to hiring, layoff and performance evaluation of teachers. Education Minister George Abbott said the deal includes a letter of understanding to continue talks on those issues.

BCTF president Susan Lambert said the agreement includes some improvements to teacher benefits and leave provisions. But Wednesday Lambert announced the union is making the latest of many trips to court to argue that imposing a two-year wage freeze violates their constitutional right to collective bargaining. The BCTF is the last major public sector union in the province to accept the wage limits.

“We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government take its concession demands off the table,” Lambert said.

Abbott rejected the union’s claim that the employer was trying to cut back professional development provisions. The ministry wants to standardize provisions that were negotiated separately with the 60 districts before province-wide bargaining was imposed, he said.

BCPSEA chair Melanie Joy said the tentative agreement standardizes provincial language for the number of leaves and establishes a process for determining local and provincial issues.

Acceptance of the agreement will allow schools to resume classes next fall with teachers resuming extra-curricular activities and meetings with school administration. The work-to-rule campaign extended throughout the school year now ending for most students, and culminated in a three-day strike in March.